Monday, September 3, 2012

Microsoft Academic Search: Randomization in Action?

Move over, Google Scholar! Microsoft has apparently decided to join the scholarly search fray with Microsoft Academic Search (MAS). The page (whose logo indicates it is in beta test) allows you to search for papers and authors and find all sorts of fascinating (to the author's mother) information ... about someone who may or may not be her offspring.

I discovered this when someone sent me an email message expressing confusion about my relationship to "Paul B. Callahan". Trust me, his confusion was dwarfed by mine, as I've never heard of Mr. (Dr.?) Callahan. The author of the email included a link to this page on MAS. Since the page is likely to change in the future, I'll embed a snapshot below.

top of MS Academic Search page for Paul B. Callahan
That is in fact my smiling face next to Dr. Callahan's name, and the "Homepage" link does take you to my home page. In addition to the difference in names, I have never been at Johns Hopkins University (which I'm sure comes as a relief to them), I know next to nothing about neuroscience, and I skipped the pharmacological portions of the '60s and '70s.

So I tried searching MAS for "Paul A. Rubin" and ended up here. Again, I'll include a screen shot.

The picture might be me if taken in very low light, and once again the homepage link is to my home page. My association with George Mason University is much like my association with Johns Hopkins University: nonexistent. (For future reference, I have no association with any university whose school name is or sounds like the first and last names of a person.) "Business Administration and Economics" might fit me, to the extent that some of my publications are in journals that fall in that category (and I did teach in a business school), but nuclear physics and nuclear energy are a major mismatch. My parole office won't let me have a slingshot, much less get near anything fissile. For that matter, I'm wondering if the PAR at GMU (if one really exists) actually has one foot in business and another in nuclear anything. (I say "another" and not "the other" because playing with nuclear stuff has been known to cause mutations.)

If you examine the list of publications on that second page, some are mine and some are very much not.

I searched the site for instructions on how to report errors. The answer is that you do not report them; you edit them out yourself. I have no idea if this means that anyone with an account can edit these pages (what could possibly go wrong with that?), or if the "owner" has to edit the page (in which case who owns the second one, me or my doppelganger at GMU?). In any event, I have no intention of creating an account with Microsoft just so that I can clean up their errors.

If I could edit the pages, I'd be tempted to change my photos into links to Google Scholar. So probably MS is just as happy that I'm not setting up an account.


  1. My experience with MAS has been similarly poor. It doesn't appear that they're actually serious about pursuing this, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. On the other hand, Google Scholar seems to be under fairly active development, and I do encourage my friends to setup profiles on Google Scholar.

    1. I intend to ignore it to the extent possible (and I do have a GS profile) ... but if Microsoft is going to stick a link to me on every n-th profile, I can see a whole lot of strange email messages headed my way. :-(

  2. > Microsoft has apparently decided to join the scholarly search MAS

    MAS is around as a "public beta" since 2009 [preceded by a closed-beta "(Windows) Live Academic Search" (2006)].

    It has some "fun toys" (like the VisualExplorer), and - last time I checked - it indexed some sources Google Scholar didn't do. (The latter may have changed, though.)

    Just mentioned for the sake of completeness ...actually, I don't use MAS either.

    1. Interesting. I don't recall hearing anything about it prior to this, which I suppose says something about both its popularity (or lack thereof) and the effort Microsoft is putting into publicizing it.

    2. MAS (or, more precisely, WLAS) started as part of an quite ambitious program, aiming to offer all kind of academic services - incl.

      In the end, just another failed attempt by Microsoft to broaden its business activities.

  3. Do you mostly compose only for your site or maybe for any other Internet or offline networks?


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