Search is on for Intute

Manchester University’s national data centre Mimas is launching an internet search engine specialising in academic papers at the end of January.

The free service will add thousands of documents to the existing Intute service which allows academics, teachers, researchers and students to search for information relating specifically to their subject area.

The launch follows criticism in the media by Prof Tara Brabazo of Brighton University, who argued that students need to be taught to challenge the facts taken from Google or Wikipedia.

The £1.5m per year collaboration between seven UK universities and partners will be led by a team of full-time specialists who will search for appropriate content. They are backed by PhD students and a range of organisations including the Wellcome Trust who have added their own information to the Intute database.

Intute is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee and The Arts and Humanities Research Council.

According to executive director Caroline Williams, Intute is more discriminating than Google which uses robots to automatically index web pages.

She said: ‘Google isn’t discriminating about the material it chooses, and with no systematic quality control processes it is very difficult for people to explore and discover trusted information.

‘But automation, combined with human value judgements, can be more responsive and dynamic in meeting the needs of higher and further education.

‘Intute’s new content will be harvested automatically using purposely designed software from trustworthy sources, primarily UK university research databases and repositories.

‘Together with its existing services, the material provides more accurate and sensitive subject retrieval so it is a safety net for those students who haven’t acquired the skills of evaluation.’