Information Resources Department keeps INSPIRE well-oiled

Heath O’Connell

Heath O’Connell, information resources manager in the Information Resources Department, wrote this column.

INSPIRE is the world’s key information system for high-energy physics. A central and crucial resource for the particle, astroparticle, nuclear and accelerator physics community, it provides comprehensive databases and associated services covering research, conferences, jobs, experiments, institutions and people in the community. Among other services, INSPIRE generates publication lists, hosts a directory of scientists in the field and provides a place to post and hunt for jobs.

INSPIRE is run by a team of information scientists and software developers from CERN in Switzerland, DESY in Germany, SLAC in California and Fermilab’s Information Resources Department (IRD) in the Business Services Section.

One of the Fermilab team’s contributions to INSPIRE is in the area of scientific paper authorship. Author disambiguation, in particular, is indispensable to finding all the papers by a particular author and the papers of only that author. Effective disambiguation is also important for the author’s citations and impact to be fairly represented. In a community of 18 J. Smiths, 26 C. Chens and 34 J. Kims, that can be a challenging job! INSPIRE has made great strides in automating this disambiguation. In ambiguous and complex cases, algorithms can take you only so far, and human expertise is crucial. IRD staff members are contacted daily by dozens of scientists from around the world who seek to make sure that their publication profiles in INSPIRE are properly curated and that people with similar names are properly sorted. The IRD, together with all partners in INSPIRE and beyond, has now started efforts to address the issue of Asian names, which requires particular care. As part of this effort, the IRD works very closely with Fermilab collaborations upon submission of their articles to make sure every author is properly recognized.

The Fermilab team is also instrumental in INSPIRE’s jobs area. The IRD manages the ever-popular INSPIRE jobs database to provide a free and comprehensive place for our community to post and view relevant open positions. Job seekers can sort posts by field, seniority and geographical regions. Roughly 1,000 people subscribe to our courtesy jobs announcement mailing list, and many more browse the site regularly. The IRD staff adds jobs to the database by accepting submissions from users and by scanning the websites of the world’s major HEP institutions. In the first half of this year alone, the IRD helped with more than 2,000 queries from users who were adding, removing or updating their postings.

In addition, the IRD ensures all Ph.D. theses based on work done at Fermilab are included in INSPIRE and available to the world as scanned full text. This enables the tracking of theses citations. The IRD also contributes to other community-related activities in INSPIRE, such as improving the way information is presented, scanning old conference proceedings and engaging with the community. As a new activity, the IRD has been helping the CDF and DZero collaborations preserve their notes in INSPIRE.

The worldwide community makes good and frequent use of INSPIRE, and all four managing laboratories work hard to improve the INSPIRE user experience and deliver new services and features requested by the community. We appreciate the strong support of Fermilab’s management for INSPIRE as we work to make it an ever more useful service for the scientists of Fermilab and the world.