SciFinder, the chemical information database and search interface, will be available by web access ONLY beginning July 1, 2011. Users will no longer be able to use the desktop client version of SciFinder Scholar as of that date. Northwestern University's limit of two web-access users at a time will be increased to nine users. This change reflects work done by the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) to update and improve the search interface and functionality of SciFinder. Dropping the client application will definitely make accessing SciFinder much easier for users, since there will be no more need to install the client on individual computers. CAS has dropped the "Scholar" from the name of the product as well, so the newer, more modern web version is now just named "SciFinder".
Recent data from CAS has shown that Northwestern users conducted over ten thousand SciFinder searches using the client version, but only five hundred searches using the web application during the month of May, 2011. When client access ceases in July, we would like our users to be prepared, so here are some of the things you should know about using the web version of SciFinder.
To Register for or Log in to the Web Version of SciFinder
Current SciFinder client users should be able to log in to the web version using their NetIDs and passwords, but some users have had difficulty with logging in to the web version for the first time with their NetIDs.
First-time registration and returning user login access points are both accessible through the NUCat record for SciFinder. Look for the links to "Online access, web version." If you're already a SciFinder user, click the link for returning users and enter your NetID and password in the boxes on the SciFinder login page. If you receive a password error, click the "I forgot my password" link, enter your NetID and email address, and SciFinder will reset your password for you. (Please be aware that if SciFinder does reset your password, it is only for SciFinder login purposes: it will not reset your NetID password for other Northwestern sites like Webmail or the Galter Library website.)
If you are a new SciFinder user, or if you receive an error message telling you that your username and email are not on record at SciFinder, click the link to register for a new account and fill in the required fields.
The SciFinder Web Interface
Before you use the web version of SciFinder, make sure you set your web preferences in your chosen browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari) to accept scifinder.cas.org as a trusted site, to accept pop-ups from the site, and make sure that your computer's version of Java is updated. These steps will ensure that SciFinder works well on your browser.
The SciFinder web interface looks quite different from the client: the same features are present, but they can be found in different places. The top of the page will show your name and the "Sign out" link and the major search options: literature search, structure search or reaction search. Also at the top of the page is a set of links for enhanced usability of the site: help features, preferences, saved answer sets and the new SciPlanner.
Explore References (Literature Searching)
Literature searches can be performed using topic, author name, company name, journal title, document ID, patent number, or user-created tags.
For the Research Topic search, SciFinder uses a different text search method than databases such as PubMed or Web of Science. The search will parse your query to determine the proximity and relatedness of your search terms. For example, a search for the phrase "anti-inflammatory drugs effects in Alzheimer disease" returns four result sets with different degrees of relatedness of the main concepts:
Once a reference set is selected, users can view individual references and explore concepts that are prevalent in each reference, as selected and defined by the SciFinder expert curators.
You can search for substances much the same way as in the client version of SciFinder. Search by chemical structure using the structure drawing interface, or search by Markush formula, molecular formula, or use the Substance Identifier search to search by substance name (e.g. acetaminophen, naproxen).
Substance results can be refined using many variables, including commercial availability and chemical properties, or can be refined by re-drawing the structure using the drawing tool. Any structure can be moused over to open a menu of options for that structure.
All of the substance options are similar to the client version, but now they are available from one interface: you no longer need to go back to the substance search page to refine or synthesize a substance.
A new feature in SciFinder is the SciPlanner. SciPlanner acts as a whiteboard for substance synthesis. You can send a substance or reaction drawing from the drawing tool or search results to SciPlanner, then use SciPlanner's features to synthesize substances, create intermediate steps or expand the reaction. SciFinder is a virtual replacement for many chemists' use of the fume hood cover for drawing reactions and substances.
Exporting Substance Properties
Another new feature in SciFinder is the option to download properties tables for any substances retrieved in your searches. This is particularly useful if you have read a paper and need to get the specific properties for the substances described in the manuscript. If those properties are available in SciFinder, they can be downloaded in an Excel table format. Select the specific substances from your search results or from a paper's set of substances, then click the Export button near the upper right corner of the SciFinder webpage, then select the file format you wish to download. Here you can select the "Properties Only - Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet (*.xls)" option.
Saving Your Work
You can save your workspace in SciPlanner or save result sets from any of your searches using SciFinder's save options. Saving your work on SciFinder's servers allows you to come back to your work from any computer with an internet connection, so you no longer have to save your results to your own computer's hard drive.
The SciFinder web version has many new features and greatly improved functionality compared to the client version of SciFinder Scholar. Users are encouraged to try the web version and become familiar with it before the July 1 deadline for conversion to SciFinder web only.
The CAS maintains a set of help guides and links to recorded video tutorials for SciFinder, as well as a schedule of upcoming training "e-Seminars" at their SciFinder Support & Training page.
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The Biosciences & Bioinformatics Blog highlights new tools and news items of interest to the biosciences research community at Northwestern University