[SAO/NASA ADS]   Collaborator's Guide to the ADS

The Collaborator's Guide to the ADS groups together information to assist ADS users who are not scientists but are regular users of the ADS, e.g. librarians and publishers. This page contains links to our help pages and FAQ but also contains some information that a scientist may not need to know to conduct research. If you have any suggestions for other topics to be covered here please let us know.

  1. What's in the ADS?
  2. Detailed searching information
  3. Connecting to the ADS
  4. Special Uses of the ADS
  5. How do I get an ADS account?
  6. I have old journals, can the ADS use them?
What's in the ADS?

The ADS is primarily an abstracting and indexing service. The ADS maintains three bibliographic databases containing more than 22.1 million records: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and arXiv e-prints. The main body of data in the ADS consists of bibliographic records, which are searchable through highly customizable query forms, and full-text scans of much of the astronomical literature which can be browsed or searched via our full-text search interface.

The ADS provides access and pointers to a wealth of external resources, including electronic articles, data catalogs and archives. In addition we have many publications that we have scanned and are available without cost. Listings of the current holdings can be found:
  • adshelpabs:journals_service.html
  • adshelpabs:proceedings_service.html
  • adshelpabs:bulletins_service.html

How stable are the articles in the ADS?

ADS has scanned all the publications in the archive in collaboration with the publishers and copyright holders, most of whom have received a copy of the digital material. The fact that the content is available in ADS does not prevent the copyright holder from maintaining and serving its own copy.

ADS has chosen to keep all of its scans as individual TIFF files (one per page), rather than use proprietary or more complex formats. The articles that are served to the public are generated on the fly from these scans. Because the format we use relies on a very basic standard, and given the fact that all the software we use is available in the public domain, the maintenance and migration of the content are not issues to be overly concerned about.

The data itself is replicated on all of ADS's mirror sites (in addition to being stored on the original DVDs), which provide a level of additional safety should there be a serious hardware or software failure on any of our sites.

The ADS has become such an important service to the astronomical community that under no circumstances will the content available in our system be allowed to simply disappear for lack of resources. Should our project ever run into trouble because of problems with our funding (which comes from NASA) we could rely on the astronomical community at large to provide the needed support to keep our essential services alive, including perpetual access to the fulltext.

Detailed Searching Information

Affiliation Searching We have not integrated an affiliation field in the main abstract service search form because affiliations found in the ADS databases are inconsistently formatted, contain a lot of noise, and most importantly only exist for about half of the entries in the database, which means that a search by affiliation would generate very biased results.

However, given the number of requests we have had on this subject, in 2005 we introduced a separate query form allowing a user to search for different affiliation spellings in the database and subsequently retrieve any records containing them. The search form is available at:


For researchers wishing to analyze affiliations on a large-scale basis, we can provide this information on a collaborative basis. Note however that because of the limitations of this type of search we recommend that people use author searches instead when compiling bibliometric studies for particular institutions.

Several alternate ways to search the ADS including by Journal/Volume/Page can be found at: adshelpabs:bib_abs.html

Searching by publication date is possible by filling in the parameters on the main query page. If you do not know the publication month you may leave this field blank. If the ADS does not know the publication month or if none is given, a value of "00" is inserted in the publication field, therefore we recommend that you search by year only if you are unsure of the exact month of publication.

Acronym searching is available in the ADS. We do this by detecting capitalized words as acronyms. This means that ADS searches are now case-sensitive, and words that are entered in all uppercase are considered acronyms and will only match the same acronyms as found in the literature. For example, compare the difference in results when searching "FUSE" rather than "fuse".

Phrase searching can be done by enclosing the words in quotation marks, i.e. "black holes" will give better results than searching black holes.

Connecting to the ADS

The ADS maintains a Z39.50 server but this server is given only limited support and returns only a few basic formats. Further information and ADS Z39.50 Server Configuration Guidelines can be found: adshelpabs:abs_doc/adshelp_server.html

The ADS supports access to fulltext available from third parties via openURL linksr. By knowing a user's particular OpenURL settings, an information provider (in this case the ADS) can create well-defined links to the user's OpenURL server, which then in turn directs the user to the fulltext contents that his or her library subscribes to. To facilitate the task of setting these parameters, the ADS tries to automatically detect the user's OpenURL server based on the user's IP address by checking OCLC's OpenURL Resolver Registry. If you are a librarian and would like to have your institute's OpenURL server listed in the ADS's menu, please send us the location of the OpenURL server, icon, and the text to be displayed in the menu and we will add it to our settings. Having your institute listed in the ADS page is useful even if your IP addresses are registered with OCLC since it allows users to select the proper entry when working from home or on travel.


Special Uses of the ADS
  1. Setting up a group
  2. Citation analysis
  3. Article linking
  4. Private Libraries
  5. Submitting corrections
How Can I Set Up A Group on the ADS?
The Abstract Service Astronomy and Astrophysics search form contains a Group selection section, which gives the user the ability to have the results of a query limited to a set of abstracts which we have designated as a bibliographic group. The data which are collected in these group searches are maintained by a designated person at the institution who is in charge of keeping an up-to-date list of bibcodes. This list must be in a designated stable URL containing the list of bibcodes that should be included in the group; this should be a simple text file , containing one bibcode per line. The ADS then sets up a procedure to download the list of bibcodes on a regular basis. If you have a set of data you would like to have us use as a group, please contact us at adshelp@cfa.harvard.edu.

How Complete Are the Citations in the ADS?
The first source of citation data became available to the ADS in 1997 when the AAS purchased citation data for the core astronomy journals from ISI. In 1999 we started extracting reference lists from the full-text of papers available in the ADS article service or provided to us by the journal publishers. In October 2007 we gained access to CrossRef's metadata, which includes references from many articles in the physical sciences. As of January 2008 we have parsed and identified over 30 million references from all the sources of bibliographic metadata available to us. While the addition of these references has greatly improved our coverage, users should realize that we only have been able to generate these lists for a well-defined set of publications and in well-defined time spans. In addition, references may be incomplete due to our inability to match them with 100% accuracy (e.g. in press, private communications, author errors, some conference series, etc.). Anyone using the citations for analysis of publishing records should keep this in mind. For a complete discussion see the article at: https://adshelpabs.harvard.edu/abs/2007ASPC..377...69A

How Can I Link to An Article in the ADS?
If you know the bibliographic code of the paper you want to link to, this URL will display its record:
e.g. adshelpabs:abs/2007ASPC..377...69A

To link directly to a scanned article, use URLs of the form:
e.g. adshelpabs:full/1895ApJ.....1....1M

Private Libraries:
allow users to group together articles for quick access. adshelpabs:abs_doc/help_pages/privlib.html

How to Submit Corrections:
Use our FEEDBACK form: adshelpabs:submit_correction.html

How Do I Get An ADS Account?

We have recently integrated all of the ADS customization capabilities into a single ADS account, which can easily be accessed from any computer through a login procedure. This login capability, much like the one provided by Google and Yahoo, gives users an account based on the one's email address. This allows a user to easily retrieve and modify preferences, private libraries, query settings, and myADS's setup. Users are encouraged to have an account because this allows them to save preferences such as the open-url server for their institute as well as any other formatting preferences they may want to use on a regular basis.

If you have in the past entered your email address when accessing ADS, this login environment was created for you, and is available for you to use immediately. If not, you can create it by clicking on the "Sign in" button found on the upper right corner of our home page. Please note that the sign-on and customizations are still tied to the particular ADS mirror site that you are using.

I Have Old Journals. Does the ADS Want Them?

Please check our missing journals page: https://adshelp.harvard.edu/pubs/missing_journals.html

And also contact us (adshelp@cfa.harvard.edu) with any questions concerning extra journals.


adshelp at cfa.harvard.edu