Researchers in the cloud

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.28.48 PMI have just published, a short Science & Society article in Trends in Biochemical Sciences (TIBS) about the emergence of online tools for researchers using cloud-based technologies. This is part of a TBIS series of articles on “Research 2.0” with topics ranging from open access and crowd-funding, to new digital tools for researchers.

With a similar approach to what I am doing with Connected Researchers, this article lists tools that are changing (or have the potential of changing) the way researchers do and communicate their work. Because this article is published in a journal non-tech-savvy researchers read, I am particularly hopeful that it will bring more researchers to the digital tool adopter side.

Find the article here: available for free until Sept 14th 2014
Paywall access here: Science Direct

Sciencescape offers a new approach to searching for scientific publications

20202At the pace research is advancing, researchers must keep up to date with an impressive flow of information. Millions of papers are published every year and millions more are already available. So how can we stay up to date with the latest advances in our fields? And when exploring new areas of research, how can we identify the important papers that will help grasp the field quickly? Many great online tools such as  PubChase, Scizzle and scientific search engines such as Google Scholar, Pubmed and Web of Knowledge will all help you find and collect scientific papers. And you can now count on Sciencescape as well.

Sciencescape is a new way to discover and gather scientific publications. It uses the power of full text mining and network theory to help you find papers highly relevant to your search and interests. Sciencescape was founded over 3 years ago, however their public beta version was launched just this July. So lets have a look at what this new tool offers.

Sciencescape ranks paper a bit differently

Sciencescape ranks papers not by impact factor of the journal it is published in or citation counts, but based on their Eigenfactor. This elaborate method derived from network theory, gives a more detailed representation of the impact of scientific papers by taking into account not only the number of citations, but also the impact of the paper the citation is coming from. This technique is similar to those used by Google scholar and Google search: the more links point to a particular page, and the more important are the sites linking to that page, the better ranked the page will be. Enhanced by a few customizations special to Sciencescape, this Eigenfactor-based ranking brings up lists of highly relevant results.


Publications are sorted by Eigenfactor, an alternative to citation numbers.

Browse networks of interconnected papers.

Beyond paper ranking, Scienscape makes the discovery of new papers easier and more efficient. With the approval of dozens of publishers to mine the full text of their research papers, Sciencescape extracts relevant information that helps link papers together by fields. As an example, for one of my publications, describing the use of mucins glycoproteins to pattern mammalian cells on surfaces, Sciencescape identified a dozen different fields (see screenshot below). Some of these are more relevant than others, but overall, Sciencescape is doing a fine job at identifying the scientific fields behind each paper it analyses.

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Scientific fields identified by Sciencescape from the full text mining of a paper.

You can then subscribe to the fields that interest you to receive updates about the latest papers in that particular field. Clicking on the field name leads you to the field chart page. The charts represent the publishing landscape for a certain field over time. Spikes in number of citations in open access journals are easily visualized. This makes it easy to spot the papers that are likely to be important in a particular field.

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Field charts help you get a glimpse at the most impactful papers in  a particular field over time.

A paper by John Smith? What John Smith?

Properly identifying authors can be a tricky task, mostly due to the relatively high occurrence of homonymes. The ORCID project is already well underway to solve this issue and by providing each researcher with a unique ID number to track their career and publishing records. Sciencescape takes an alternative approach by compiling the large set of information they have at their disposal to properly identify authors and their list of publications. This method does not require any effort on the author’s side, so it becomes easy to explore the publication records of any of your colleagues

The author description page automatically generated by Sciencescape

The author description page automatically generated by Sciencescape.

Don’t be selfish, share your findings within Sciencescape

Sciencescape is even more powerful when used within a community (think department or lab). Papers and collections are easily sharable and can be “broadcasted” to other sciencescape users via quick tweeter-like messages. By signing up with your institute’s email, Sciencescape can identify your Institute and connect you with your colleagues. These reference collections will soon be transposable in several mainstream reference managers such as Mendeley papers and Endnote.

How much?

The service is free for citizen scientists and academics and come at a fee for researchers working in the industry. This tool is still in beta testing phase, so expect changes in the interface and the addition of many new functionalities. But it is already a well build platform with a rather innovative approach to literature search, and I recommend checking it out!