I've previously written a bit about the IngentaConnect RSS feeds and the improvements we've made to them. One of the key reasons we've included as much metadata as possible in the feeds is to make them useful in a number of different contexts, not just for human readers.
The IngentaConnect feeds are currently available as RSS 1.0, enriched with Dublin Core (DC), PRISM and FOAF metadata. This hits a "sweet spot" in that the RSS 1.0 format is well supported in feed readers and aggregated and, as a RDF format, that data is also available to semantic web applications. I've got an eye on Atom support for the future, but for now I don't see a compelling reason to alter how we're publishing the data.
I'm not aware of any feed readers that can do much with the enhanced data we're providing, although as a number of publishers are providing DC and PRISM metadata in their feeds, a reader tailored for researchers and/or embedded in a citation manager seems like a "no brainer".
As I don't see this kind of innovation happening in RSS readers, I think expansion of RSS usage in scientific and publishing circles is going to come more from dedicated applications or "mashups".
CiteULike was the first application that I'm aware of that harvested the IngentaConnect RSS feeds. It extracts the publishing metadata for display to its users and for storing alongside their bookmarks. I'm pleased to see that others are now starting to emerge, the most recent being uBioRSS a "taxonomically intelligent feeder reader".
uBioRSS harvests the IngentaConnect feeds (amongst others) to attempt to spot and extract species names from the the content. These names are checked against the uBio taxonomy database to enable users to browse and subscribe to RSS alerts tailored to their research interests: e.g. a particular genus of animal, class of micro-organism, etc. There's immediate value add for researchers here as they can avoid having to subscribe to each feed individually, scan them for relevant content, etc.
I'm encouraged to see this kind of innovation coming from researchers themselves. I'd love to hear from other people using data from IngentaConnect in this way. Actually I'd love to hear what additional data people would like; we have plans in this direction, but it'd be nice to make those dove-tail with needs from end-users.
One possible growth area for use of RSS is in library applications. The JISC funded TOCRoSS project is aimed at exploring the interface between publishing, RSS and library applications. One deliverable of this project will be a means to feed data from RSS feeds into a library application such as an OPAC. It's an interesting project and I'll be keen to see how it plays out. (Although, I must admit to some quibbles over the technical directions: RSS1.0+DC+PRISM seems like a better bet than RSS2.0+ONIX/PRISM to my mind).
We've been doing some brainstorming in this direction ourselves. For example, how can RSS feeds be further tailored to library applications and users? e.g. inclusion of proxy service and OpenURL linking, library branding, or perhaps inclusion of additional controls to create "Immediate Action Feeds".
If you're developing applications in this space, or can think of intended uses of RSS feeds that would benefit your patrons, we'd like to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment under this posting, or drop myself or our product manager, Charlie Rapple an email.