Friday, September 01, 2006

searching difficulties; too-disparate data sources

i recently had to do a research report for the Masters course in Madrid. Some would call it a mini-thesis (or tesina) but in the end I call it a report (which is what my professors called it at times). Anyhow, as I was getting down-and-dirty with legal databases I sat, on a number of occassions, on discovering the complicatedness of the research life of the legal scholar, threw my hands up in despair at times and exclaimed "THIS DOESN´T HAVE TO BE SO DIFFICULT!!!"

People get inducted into a way of doing things, and they just don´t demand more or that things be different or what. For instance, I start with DIALNET, an online bibliographic database for scholarly works in the Spanish language. But frequently DIALNET does not link to the fulltext (it does for some, but, as luck would have it, not for many of the legal publications that I was looking for). Then, hop to my local library site at UC3M, authenticate, and search there (either in the legal databases, most of which have access to legislation & jurisprudence (cases), but not so often the doctrine). Somewhere in between all of this madness, I did use SFX, but even with SFX functionality the search for legal doctrine was just nightmarish (in the end, many of the publications are still print-only, and so, in the library...which was closed saturdays in august).

okay, switch scenes.

so i was thinking of this little research "trip" when watching a bit of Crossing Jordan the other day. See, they were looking for a particular area where girls had been sequestered, and in this very easy search the investigator had a geographic map, one-click, the map o/t neighbourhood, and next click, overlay map of water works needing some kind of treatment, next click, map of areas where a particular type of pine tree unknown in that area had been planted. Voila! It was sooooooo simple! Of course, this is television, how could it not be simple! But, looking at the ease with which those rather refined layers of info had been placed one atop the other, I thought, why could my legal research work not have been as easy?

And I was reminded of all of the above when I saw a reference to the Information Commons.

"The Information Commons unites all the facts and figures of the world into a resource available to everyone. Through a massive peer-to-peer network, the Commons enables individuals, non-profits and government agencies to fuse their data together into one database, distributed across many different computers. Sharing data in the Commons is seamless between individuals and organizations, offering easy, flexible data integration and reuse."

I have no personal experience of this network so cannot comment, but for now, "seamless" seems like something close to nirvana. or maybe "godot"(???)


Post a Comment

<< Home