It was back in 2008 when Google Scholar launched the feature that identified free available versions of articles of the Web. In the early days these were indicated by green triangles in front of the reference. Nowdays free available copies are listed in the right hand column. Many of these versions are Open Access versions of articles properly submitted to preprint servers and subject or institutional repositories. Other free versions of the papers identified by Google Scholar are publishers versions of articles posted to personal websites, dropboxes and you name it. Whatever the rights are, if you need a copy of these papers, and don’t have access through your universities library subscriptions, this Google Scholar feature is a very useful tool. In scholarly search classes I always stress this very useful feature of Google Scholar to my students.
In our institution’s bibliography I would love to include a functionality to refer for each article to the so called document clusters in Google Scholar. Consider the following publication the link to the full text included in the record leads you to Science Direct. Whether you can access the paper on SD, depends on the subscriptions. Sometimes you can’t. Therefore it would be nice if we could include a link to the document cluster in Google Scholar. For this paper you get some 29 versions of the paper, but above all 6 of these are free versions of this paper posted on various websites. That’s really helpful.
Consider the idea that Google Scholar had an API. If we could query that API on the basis of the DOI or PMID or ISSN in combination with volume, issue and pages or any other combination of standard bibliographic metadata. Yes, something like an openURL. And GoogleScholar would only return the correct Google Scholar ID for that article -that number 12564475196117890153 in the link- we could construct various links. Linking to the Google Scholar document cluster is one. Retrieving the Google Scholar citations is another.
Google doesn’t like metadata too much is an often heard argument. But the Google Books API works swell with ISBN numbers, OCLC numbers or LOC numbers. That API is talking metadata. Libraries are massive stores of metadata. So Anurag Acharya please. The pleas for a Google Scholar API are abound. Mostly for retrieval of citations, but for the OA movement those document clusters are really more important! Perhaps you could launch this Google Scholar API as a present for the Open Access week coming up in October?