Google makes an interesting move yesterday jumping into the realm of academic and scholar web search by releasing the beta version of Google Scholar.
Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.According to Google, Scholar will not initially carry Web search advertisements, which put it in line to be completely absent of any "commercial" intent. It may carry advertisements later, but those of the "scholarly" kind.
Having tested out Scholar the past hour. I am quite impressed with the abilities of this engine. According to Anurag Acharya, a principal engineer at Google, the engine is powered by specially tailored search algorithms to find relevant results to the topic at hand. This is going to delight some in higher learning. Instead of professors having to "Google" a students paper to see if they got it off the web, they may now be recommending Google as a source for obtaining research which before might have not been the case.
Scholar boasts some impressive features, mainly in the results themselves. For example a search for "outbreeding depression", an very select research area in Evolution pull up about 1250 results. Quite a number were the amount of research is not as extensive as say "string theory dynamics".
You may also conduct author specific searches using the following operator: author:nameofauthor. An example search is here. Or how about a search for amazing inventor who died well over a 100 years ago, author:tesla nikola. Nice and necessary feature, as its use will allow of searching along research conducted by specific authors.
Another nice aspect of the results provided is the cross referencing between multiple sources. Instead of one source for the article you can get up to 100 different ones from .edu, .gov, and many other sites that host these particular articles. Duplicate content apparently okay. Citations are probably the single best feature I can find, as in any research you must state the source of some of the information and cite it appropriately. My original example works well here to show how citations work.
One thing amiss that I wished was possible is searching within a range of dates. I try doing a search for the most recent document using a Julian date format, as used in regular google search, "semantics daterange:2453005-2453310". This is the date range for Jan. 2004 to November 1, 2004. Yet, Scholar was not able to handle such a search. In the regular results you are presented with dates of the articles, such as "2003", or "1999" but the information stops there, and I don't know if it possible to search for a specific range. Reason this might be important, is if you are doing research, you often times need to know about the most recent research or articles on the subject. While some things stand the test of time, others don't.