APS News

Major Improvements Underway at PROLA

APS members who currently have access to the Society's Physical Review Online Archive (PROLA), either through an institutional or a personal subscription, will now be able to enjoy a variety of new and improved features.

PROLA also has an expanded repertoire of previously published material: Physical Review, Physical Review Letters and Reviews of Modern Physics are online back to 1981. When completed, the archive will consist of all of Physical Review back to 1893, all of Physical Review Letters back to its origin in 1958, and all of Reviews of Modern Physics back to its inception in 1929. The project is scheduled for completion within this calendar year. "PROLA can bring 100 years of physics to every researcher's desk," says Barbara Hicks, APS Associate Publisher.

The PROLA project was first prototyped by APS in 1993 at Los Alamos National Laboratory, with the original goal of creating a searchable index for Physical Review from the legacy data used to typeset the journals. Soon thereafter the Naval Research Laboratory joined to provide scanning on a cooperative basis. APS took over direct management of the project in the summer of 1997 and moved it entirely in house in May, 1998. Mark Doyle, a physicist in the Long Island office who is Manager of Product Development, took over the project, and by the end of the year the server was launched with an archive of online copies of Physical Review from 1985 through 1996. The majority of the collection consists of scanned images of the printed journals available as either GIF images or as PDF files. In addition to the scanned images, the front and back matter of the articles is rekeyed. PROLA uses this, coupled with a bibliographic database, as the basis for its search index and reference linking. Full text searching will be available using optical character recognition on the scanned images.

The quality of the pre-1985 material has been improved by scanning the articles at a higher resolution. In response to membership requests, internal article references are now linked to external resources (at AIP and SLAC, among other sites), although this feature is currently limited for the time being to the 1997 APS journals. Subscribers can now view references displayed with abstracts, while non-subscribers may purchase individual articles from PROLA with their credit cards. Each year the most recent content will be updated as material is transferred into PROLA from current journal files.

Those who will be using PROLA's search capabilities will be pleased to hear that replacing the current search engine is a top short-term priority for the PROLA staff. Material dating before 1981 will be added continually, and the new reference linking feature will be extended to all of PROLA, along with the integration of links to citing articles. Bandwidth-challenged users will also soon have the option to download lower-resolution PDF files.

Future plans include implementing new external linking resources, and rescanning all of the articles from 1985-1996 at the higher quality level. In addition, the APS has entered into an agreement with the Library of Congress to provide a long-term repository for the files that are in PROLA, and is negotiating for a live mirror site at a major university to further improve access and availability.