Monday, June 15, 2009

Search Ends for New NBII Search Engine …Implementation Begins

Access Newsletter, Spring 2009
Volume 12, Number 2

Search Ends for New NBII Search Engine
…Implementation Begins

In the fall 2008 issue of Access we said a new and improved search engine was coming to the NBII. Now – drum roll – we’re most pleased to say, “It’s here!” The contract to implement the NBII’s new search engine was awarded on February 19, 2009 to VivĂ­simo, a Pittsburgh-based search software company founded in 2000 that is emerging as an industry leader. An example of a Vivisimo implementation is available on, the official Web portal of the U.S. government. “It’s safe to say we can now offer our users one of the most advanced search engines available on any biodiversity Web site,” said Jim Erwin, coordinator of the NBII Search Engine Evaluation team. The new search engine will offer many advantages over the NBII’s existing search function. Here are a few examples of new capabilities that will be available:

• The search interface is easy to use. What’s more, the search results arrive preorganized in a variety of groups created on the fly (clustered), which allows users to focus on particular categories or browse through related fields, thus avoiding a common “overload” problem of sorting through too many results.

• The search is set up to cast a wide net. When a user executes a search, the search engine has been customized to crawl – simultaneously – 35 key repositories of biodiversity data and information (this number will grow). Results arrive from
all of those sources in one search. The repositories – which include Web sites, databases, and federated resources – have been painstakingly selected from those offered by governments (federal, state, and local), nonprofits, the private sector, educational institutions, and more.

• Users can do a basic search by putting keywords in the search box (located in the NBII home page banner) or an advanced search with metadata fields. They can also specify how many results they want to come back.

• The search engine will also be integrated with Google Maps. For instance, if you’re looking for species records that are geospatially referenced, you’ll soon be able to display that information on the appropriate map.

• Users can search for images. The images come back as thumbnails. Just click on a thumbnail to open it up and examine it further. You can also search information associated with an image. And the list of benefits goes on and on. “Choosing and customizing this search engine has been a long, exhaustive process that we expect
to conclude by July 15,” said Erwin. “But we really feel like all the effort is
worth it – and we’re sure our users will agree.”


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