What is federated search? Why would I want one? WIIFM?
First, some definitions. Federated search is that capability that allows several different information sources to searched simultaneously from one search interface. That’s the basic proposition. Sometimes it’s called meta search, sometimes integrated search. The theory behind all the terms is the same: Don’t make me search in more than one place for what I want! (George Carlin could have a heyday with this and his banana guacamole/ car keys rant)
So? What else does federated search do? Typically, the federated search platform is designed to render the results of it’s queries into multiple database in a relevancy ranked list OR in a clustered list of results by subject.
Why can’t I just use Google?
Must you WHINE like that?!? Google is very good at doing one thing and that is Google is an extremely efficient word finder (thank you Judy Luther, Maureen Kelly, and Donald Beagle). It builds indexes and then searches them for the words that match your search but it CANNOT determine meaning.
Typically, the strength of a federated search platform is that it will search multiple sources (subscription databases, free databases, library catalogs, and web sources, etc.) and then cluster those results in a way that provide meaning to the searcher.
Try a search for “animal behavior” and look at all the different sources it’s connecting to. If you are on campus here, you’ll see results located in Science Direct, which we subscribe to, as well as the free sources from the National Institutes of Health, and other resources.
I’ll put up more examples in the next post.