Reexamining CAS SciFinder Policies for Training Purposes

As a member of the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) email list for its SciFinder product (SciFinder Talk), I am disappointed by the CAS policy that was sent out yesterday on the SciFinder Talk email list about requesting extra access for training for their SciFinder product. Currently, as of September of 2009, SciFinder limits the number of simultaneous users, but for training purposes one can request extra training “seats” (simultaneous users are fondly referred to by CAS as “seats”). There is a limit of 15 seats that one can request at one time, and they “require two weeks notice.”

CAS should really reexamine this policy for SciFinder training, and make it easier for trainers to request additional training seats. From my own experience of teaching students how to use SciFinder, I don’t always know two weeks prior when I need to provide instruction for a class. Plus the two week window does not always fit into an active class schedule. Institutions pay a large chunk of money for its users to access SciFinder, and it makes CAS look bad when trainers can’t do an adequate job of hands-on training due to a lack of access.

Another thing that gets me is the archaic system of requesting more concurrent user access (extra seats). Currently, the key contact from an institution (not the trainers themselves) needs to call CAS (800-753-4227), and traverse their phone tree (which is not bad as some businesses I’ve recently experienced) and talk to a person. Alternatively, the key contact can email a CAS representative (again not the trainers themselves).

There should at least be an online form available in the administrative areas (my.cas.org) in which key contacts could request extra training seats. The online form could be provided with a first-come, first-serve basis for requesting seats. Keep in mind that CAS has a limited number of seats for training that fill up fast; this is another problem that should really be addressed as well and is probably one of the fundamental issues at its heart. The form could also indicate how many seats are available on a given day (assuming the 15 seat limit would still apply). This would allow some flexibility on the schedulers part, so if one day is not available one could see which days were. It would also take out the current middle person–the CAS scheduler.

It also seems like there is an unspoken rule from CAS in which some effort must be made in requesting extra training seats. If its too easy, then trainers will request extra seat more than ever and for non-training purposes. There are undoubtedly systems already in place to monitor the frequency of extra training seats and abuse of the system, so this should not be a reason to keep the process more difficult than need be.

CAS folks, can you please reexamine your policies and make this process easier and transparent? And at least give us an online form.

(As a side note, the service from CAS is wonderful. I receive very prompt responses that are courteous and helpful. I want to make the distinction between service and policy–the policies could be improved)

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on September 3, 2009, in Libraries, Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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