About Skim This Chapter
In August of 2005 we inaugurated a new set of tools for users of
the NAP website, including an early version of the "Active Skim."
Since then, we have improved
it and integrated it into a Discovery Suite of research tools, including Reference
Finder and Web Search Builder. We provide a Chapter Skim for every substantive
chapter of the
4000+ publications of the National Academy of Sciences, the
Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering,
and the National Research Council published by the NAP.
The Chapter Skim interface presents
what we've algorithmically identified as
the most significant single chunk of text within every page in the
chapter. While imperfect, it is nonetheless an effective means of
enabling a reader/researcher to get the gist of a chapter, and to
focus in on particular pages of interest within the chapter.
We also provide the top 30 significant phrases, derived from that
same chapter, in the right-hand column. Click on a term, and you will
see, in context, the chunks from any page from that chapter
which contain the term. From there, you can open the exact page for
more further, contextualized, reading. Again, though imperfect,
our textual analysis approach does a reasonably good job at
identifying key ideas and themes from a chapter.
We believe the Active Skim tool has the potential to
help researchers, students, specialists, and
others more rapidly make use of our online resources.
Note: some of our older publications only have rough OCRed text --
machine-read from page images -- which may lead to unpredictable
typos and errors. Also, we have found that an early version of
Internet Explorer for the Mac (no longer supported by Microsoft)
depend. Most all other platforms and browsers (Safari, Konqueror, Firefox)
function as intended.
Frequently Asked Questions About Skim This Chapter
- Why are you doing this? Doesn't it mean people will buy fewer
- Since 1994, when we first made our books freely available online,
the National Academies Press has tried to balance openness with
financial sustainability. As part of the National Academies, the
Press's job is to ensure that its publications have maximum
impact and audience, and the Skim, as well as the other Discovery
tools, helps that process. As a self-sustaining business, we
believe that the more people explore the reports, the more people
will be inclined to purchase them. For some reports, that's not
the case, but for others it is -- enough to justify continuing
openness, and to justify sustaining a
small technology group,
who make generalized, automated presentation systems possible, within the
constraints of budget and time. In
short, we err on the side of modulated, automated openness.
- Page 45's skim only has a four-word sentence. What's that about?
- A book page may contain a table, or an illustration, or other
content that doesn't fit our "most substantive sentence" approach
to text. We do not currently filter those pages, believing that a
small chunk of content is better than none at all.
- Why are there misspellings and typos?
- Older publications, or very recent pre-publication versions, may
only have machine-read text to work with -- and use page images
for online reading. Even with 99% accuracy,
that results in multiple errors on a page. The Skim (and Search
Builder, and Reference finder) works with the text it has; it is
financially unsupportable to "fix" what generally is used only
for backend searching. The result, even for older reports, is
- Is the software open source?
- See About the Search Builder
for more information on this question.
- Can I link to a "skimmed chapter" from my own site?
- Please do. We hope to see this tool being widely used to assist
in better use of our publications. Simply use the URL listed in
your browser, for any chapter.