Relying on Google for Science Information is Bad for Your Health

This post was written by Darcy Katzman on July 6, 2015
Posted Under: Federated Search,The Deep Web

People tend to think of Google as the authority in search. Increasingly, we hear people use “google” as a verb, as in, “I’ll just google that.” General users, students and even professional researchers are using Google more and more for their queries, both mundane and scholarly, perpetuating the Google myth: If you can’t find it on Google, it probably doesn’t exist. Google’s ease of use, fast response time and simple interface gives users exactly what they need…or does it?

Teachers say that 94% of their students equate “Research” with “Google”. (Search Engine Land)

“Another concern is the accuracy and trustworthiness of content that ranks well in Google and other search engines. Only 40 percent of teachers say their students are good at assessing the quality and accuracy of information they find via online research. And as for the teachers themselves, only five percent say ‘all/almost all’ of the information they find via search engines is trustworthy — far less than the 28 percent of all adults who say the same.”Student researchers-Pew

Do teachers have a point here? Is it possible that information found via search engines is less than trustworthy, and if so, where do teachers and other serious researchers need to go to find quality information? Deep Web Technologies did a little research of our own to see just how results on Google vs. popular Explorit Everywhere! search engines differs in quality of science sources.

How Google Works
Google, and other popular search engines such as Bing and Yahoo, search the surface web for information. The surface web, as opposed to the Deep Web, consists of public websites that are open to crawlers to read the website’s information and store it in a giant database called an index. When a user searches for information, they are actually searching the index of information, not the website itself. The results that are returned are the ones that people seemed to like in the past, or most popular results for the query.  That’s right…the most popular…not necessarily the most relevant information or quality resources.

We should probably also mention those sneaky ads at the top of the page that look informative, but can be quite deceptive. A JAMA article states this about medical search ads:

“Many of the ads, the researchers noted, are very informational — with ‘graphs, diagrams, statistics and physician testimonials’ — and therefore not identifiable to patients as promotional material.

This kind of ‘incomplete and imbalanced information’ is particularly dangerous, they note, because of its deceptively professional appearance: ‘Although consumers who are bombarded by television commercials may be aware that they are viewing an advertisement, hospital websites often have the appearance of an education portal.'”

Researchers thinking that Google reads their mind and magically returns the right information on the first page of results should think again. The #1 position on a Google results page gets 33% of the traffic, so is a highly sought-after spot on a Google page. Unfortunately, with SEO tricks inflating page-rank on Google and  ads vying for top spot, that number one result, or even the top page of results, may not be entirely germane or even contain much scholarly content. But those results rank high because they’ve worked the Google system. 
Google Pie

So, a search performed on Google may return educational results, but the source itself may be unreliable, pure opinion or even company marketing as in the example above. For those needing credible information from recognized, authoritative sources, Google results just don’t cut it. For example, searching for the term “Climate Change” and organizing the top  25 results into categories – Opinions, News, Government, Ads, Wiki Sources, Peer Reviewed and Education – we find that the two biggest categories are News and Opinions. This doesn’t support Google as an authoritative source of information for scientific research.

Where are Quality Science Sources?
Scholarly researchers may need some publicly available information, but more often than not they need information that is not publicly available, i.e. from Google. Much of what they look for is in password protected repositories, subscription databases, or part of an organization’s internal collection of information. These sources of information are not available to Google’s crawlers, so they are not available through Google. Databases and sources of information like these are part of what is known as the Deep Web. The Deep Web contains 95% of the information on the Internet, such as scientific reports, medical records, academic information, subscription information and multilingual databases. You can read more about the Deep Web here.

How is a Deep Web Search Better than Google for Scholars?Deep Web Iceberg
For scholars needing to go deeper into their research, Deep Web databases often contain key information and current data unavailable through Google.

Deep Web sources must be searched through specialized search engines, like Explorit Everywhere! by Deep Web Technologies. Explorit Everywhere! combines all of the Deep Web resources, making them available to search from a single search box, kind of like Google. But, there are no gimmicks, SEO tactic to get the results higher up on the page or sly ranking systems that websites can use to maneuver themselves into the number one position. It’s a simple matter of good sources and good results, aggregated and ranked so the best results are at the top. Don’t worry about wading through ads or junky opinions; if you’re searching through Explorit Everywhere!, you are searching high quality, relevant sources.

Explorit Everywhere! outperforms Google by eliminating the clutter and providing dependable, scholarly sources of current information to the user. Time and again, Explorit Everywhere! has proven itself to find the needle in the haystack for serious researchers.

Do Your Own Comparison – Google vs. Science.gov

Most Deep Web search engines are, well, Deep. They aren’t freely available because the sources themselves are private or only available to registered users. Most academic libraries subscribe to premium sources of information, for example, and those databases are considered part of the Deep Web since they aren’t available to search through Google. And, while some reputable sources of information that once existed only on the Deep Web, such as PubMed and NASA, are now publicly available through Google, these sources tend to get buried amidst other results so they aren’t always easy to find.  Many libraries feature these authoritative databases in guides, links or in search portals like Explorit Everywhere! simply to highlight the source rather than forcing users to wade through un-relevant results.

There are a few publicly available search engines where you can test drive a Deep Web search and see the difference for yourself. Science.gov, developed and maintained by the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information, uses Explorit Everywhere! to search over 60 databases and over 2200 selected websites from 15 federal agencies. The results are from authoritative, government sources, and extraordinarily relevant. When you perform a search on Science.gov, there is no question about the sources you are searching. Explore the difference!

Whether you are a student or scientist, knowing where to start your science search is very important. In most cases, serious research doesn’t start with Google. A 2014 IDC study shows that only 56% of the time do knowledge workers find the information required to do their jobs. Having the right sources available through an efficient Deep Web search like Explorit Everywhere! is critical to finding significant scientific information and staying ahead of the game.

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