Authors: Daniel Hook and Christian Herzog

A new version of an existing Digital Science portfolio product may not sound like a big deal, but we are sure that this is something special and we think that you are going to agree!

Today’s launch of an enhanced Dimensions opens a new phase in the evolution of scholarly search. For us, this isn’t just a product launch but a concerted push towards a more collaborative place for scholarly search, one that is much closer to the academic environment than the current client-supplier relationship. We also seek not to duplicate the offerings of others, but rather to deliver both new content and a set of tools to help modern users with modern use cases that have developed over the last few years.

Until today scholarly search has been well served by systems such as PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, and many others. But these systems are principally focussed on searching publications and seeing citations; and, with the notable exception of Google Scholar, they all impose specific and different types of editorial control over content at source.

“As an active researcher, I can think of many times when I wanted to quickly get a sense of a new field of research that I heard colleagues talking about, times when I wanted to understand where I should look for a collaborator or a colleague who might be able to help me understand an area or access a problem.”

There are challenges with limiting a world-view to publications and citations. As an active researcher, I (Daniel) can think of many times when I wanted to quickly get a sense of a new field of research that I heard colleagues talking about, times when I wanted to understand where I should look for a collaborator or a colleague who might be able to help me understand an area or access a problem. There have been times when I wanted to understand how I could relate my research to tangible outcomes so that I could find ways to better communicate my research to colleagues or to the public. These use cases required me to look in multiple places and to draw together many sources to develop the insight that I needed – that is, in some sense, what research is about but it was more difficult than it should have been. And, there are so many different activities that the modern researcher is involved with, it is difficult to dedicate time to being curious about the margins as well as the core.

“A researcher has always been a project manager, a trainer and a mentor, a creator of IP and an industry partner. They are a spokesperson for their field and for research in general, a consultant (often for free as a reviewer of scholarly publications!) and so much more.”

A researcher has always been a project manager, a trainer and a mentor, a creator of IP and an industry partner. They are a spokesperson for their field and for research in general, a consultant (often for free as a reviewer of scholarly publications!) and so much more. All of these activities generate information and form part of professional development, but researchers have not then had access to the data and analytics that they need to support their work. Such data can help with everything from the use cases that I mentioned above to helping to place students after a PhD, searching for key new staff in critical areas of research development and – indeed – making hard choices regarding which areas to support and which to set aside. Given that so much public money supports our global research system, decision making informed by sound data is not a bad thing. As ever, data cannot be used blindly, but having more data to inform decisions is key.

For all these reasons, Digital Science has been working to support research people – and here we mean the ecosystem that includes investigators, managers and the people who set policy and fund research – so that they can make better decisions – about what to work on, what to fund, what to read, who to work with and about the longer-term outcomes of research.

Five years ago, Altmetric joined Digital Science having launched in 2011 to show that citations were not the only measure of an academic paper, rather just one dimension in a multi-dimensional array of measures including media mentions, social media attention and policy influence.  Figshare, a contemporary of Altmetric in the Digital Science portfolio, made it possible to share the data underlying your research, make it discoverable and gain a persistent identifier for that research data no matter which field you were working in. Four years ago, I (Christian) started UberResearch with my co-founders and launched the world’s only large-scale multi-funder awarded grants database and helped hundreds of funders gain a more comprehensive overview of the landscape of research funding.

And today, we launch the next generation of Dimensions – a collaboration not just between six parts of Digital Science: Altmetric, Consultancy, Figshare, ReadCube, Symplectic and UberResearch but more than 100 external partners.

“Dimensions brings together funding data, publications, altmetrics, citations, clinical trials and patents in a richly linked discovery platform.  But, that on its own is just the beginning.”

This is our first step towards bringing together previously siloed data to create a fully contextual search experience. Dimensions brings together funding data, publications, altmetrics, citations, clinical trials and patents in a richly linked discovery platform. But, that on its own is just the beginning. We worked with academics, research support staff and administrators, funders, publishers, governments and industry to identify the most pressing needs that the changing research environment has created. Wherever possible, Dimensions connects a user with a full text copy of the research that they’re looking for in a single click; we offer not only a classic full-text search but also full contextual analytics. So, regardless of whether you are trying to pinpoint a specific piece of research or trying to understand a field or identifying the geographical locus of research, Dimensions offers you new insights.

At the beginning of this piece, we said that this wasn’t just a product launch, but rather a change in the client-supplier relationship. That phrase doesn’t do justice to what we mean – let us be clearer:  We are proud to announce that Dimensions is free to anyone for personal use; and institutional subscriptions are priced responsibly; that is: Consistently with our being able to provide a good service and to continue to innovate.

On top of this, we’re making Dimensions badges available for free for use in institutional digital repositories. When you click on the badge you get detailed citation information and some pre-calculated standard metrics.  While we’re making some metrics available both in Dimensions and through the badges, we believe strongly in the principles of DORA and that the research community should own its metrics. We look forward to supporting the development of new metrics with Dimensions.

There is a lot of work still to do, but we’ve produced two reports to show how much has been achieved so far:

1) an overview of the data content and structure
2) an analytical synthesis from the data

We hope that regardless of whether you are a researcher, or represent a publisher, a funder, a government or an enterprise, you will join us in working to improve Dimensions for the whole community.  We’re always happy to receive feedback so please contact us through this form with comments and suggestions.

Listen to what our team and development partners had to say about the development of Dimensions:

GO TO THE DIMENSIONS WEBSITE