Is it Finally Here? ProQuest Dialog Shows Off at PIUG 2013

The annual Patent Information Users Group (PIUG) 2013 conference took place in late April in Alexandria, VA, and I hope you were following @Intellogist for all the up-to-the-minute details! One of the most fun things about this conference is seeing demonstrations of new product features. I made a point of stopping at the ProQuest Dialog booth to check in on the product, and was excited to find that this long-anticipated system is nearing completion.

ProQuest Dialog is important because it finally provides access to many valuable data files that were previously only accessible via dinosaur legacy Dialog products. It’s also exciting because it retains a transactional billing model, while allowing searchers to see record previews before actually buying access to the record. Read more to find out how this product will support your prior art search needs.

ProQuest Dialog combines the search engine power of a Dialog Classic search with the usability of a modern web-based search platform. I’m familiar with both companies, and I think of the product as literally ProQuest blended with Dialog. I make this point because Dialog is known for its powerful search capabilities, and many end user tools on the market today don’t offer this level of sophistication. Primarily, I’m thinking of unlimited simultaneous left, right and internal truncation, for example *encapsul* to find “microencapsulate,” etc. A short list of what the system will include:

  • Left, right, and embedded/internal unlimited truncation
  • Command line search
  • Advanced search history features and the ability to run multi-line scripts
  • Proximity nesting, e.g. more than one term can appear on each side of a proximity operator.
  • Thesaurus-specific operators: many advanced Dialog searchers who take advantage of specialized indexing fields will appreciate that these more complex operators are being preserved. One example is the “Linking” proximity operator, which searches heading-subheading pairs within databases that use a hierarchical controlled vocabulary. For example, “asthma” LNK “diagnosis” would find records tagged as “asthma-diagnosis,” but not tagged with the heading/subheading pairs “asthma-treatment” and “diagnosis-methods.”

The ProQuest Dialog interface has also kept up with the modern trends in search platforms, including an advanced faceting menu on the results screen that both provides statistical analysis (e.g. by showing the top 10 subject terms by hit count), and allows filtering actions for further drill-down (e.g. a user might choose to exclude records with a specific subject term from the results set).

With its support of the transactional billing model, ProQuest Dialog has found a way to bring classic Dialog content to the masses, especially those who can’t afford flat fee access to all of these value-added databases. In my opinion, the way they handle the issue is quite elegant. Searching is free, as is scanning records for initial relevance on the hit list– all you pay for is the content of the full record, should you decide to open one. An alert will tell you when you are about to spend money, saving you from mistaken displays. And best of all, a rollover icon will show you an extended preview abstract for the record before you decide to display it. It’s an ingenious way to allow searchers to determine a record’s relevance by a deeper glance at the content, while not allowing them to copy and paste that content for free. Both searchers and vendor will benefit from this arrangement, as searchers will become more confident in a transaction-based environment, while ProQuest will surely collect a larger flock of those interested in taking advantage of all that Dialog content.

The main ProQuest Dialog feature demonstrated at PIUG 2013 was its new patent search capabilities, but I am less enthusiastic about this part of the product. I have found that vendors with strengths in scientific and technical literature often turn their attention to patent data without fully understanding the professional patent searcher workflow, and fall short of designing a functional interface.  However, I sometimes forget about an important market for these hybrid literature/patent search products: librarians who need to provide patent access to their novice end users. For those who need patent searching “lite,” ProQuest Dialog’s patents module could provide a good solution, as it does have some patent-specific interface features.

To be more specific about weaknesses in the patent search area, I’ll list some of my initial impressions. It seems to me that the display options in ProQuest Dialog aren’t flexible enough to allow scanning patent drawings from the hit list, and the system seems to lack advanced highlighting and record navigation features. They also haven’t yet implemented family grouping, so I can’t say how the aggregated family records will function, and that’s an important piece of the puzzle that’s missing right now.

ProQuest Dialog does also have some advantages in the patent search area, and coverage is a major strength. The product developers seem to have sourced patent collections from almost every available vendor, greatly exceeding the patent content that was available on the legacy platforms. For example, they now offer LexisNexis Univentio full text collections, which as you know from our Intellogist Community Report on TotalPatent represents over 30 patenting authorities. Unfortunately, while ProQuest Dialog is going to host both these original language and machine translated collections, the system will not support searching in non-Latin character sets (such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, etc.).

Additionally, ProQuest Dialog benefits by licensing content from other specialty providers. A good example is the IMS Patents Focus file, which contains hand-calculated patent expiry dates in each record, along with detailed notes about the patent term extension.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the migration to ProQuest Dialog, and I think it’s great that Dialog is getting a well-deserved and long-overdue makeover. Dialog as a company has been acquired and passed around multiple times by major search vendors, and it seems that the product has finally found a home (and some TLC) at ProQuest.

Have you seen ProQuest Dialog in action? Leave your impressions in the comments!

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Landon IP Librarian Kristin Whitman. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.

2 Responses

  1. I second Kristin’s opinion “vendors with strengths in scientific and technical literature often turn their attention to patent data without fully understanding the professional patent searcher workflow, and fall short of designing a functional interface.”

  2. Actually a “good” professional patent searcher adopts to the strengths of the different systems and not the other way around..just a thought

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