Engineers Searched Online for Equations More Frequently in 2013, But Were Dissatisfied with Results

Knovel survey results indicate engineers struggle to find equations that fit a specific situation

New York, February 10, 2014

Engineers conduct more searches for equations online, but they are dissatisfied with the results, a 2013 survey conducted on behalf of Knovel found. A majority of engineers surveyed look for equations at least once a week, and increasingly they search via the Internet first, rather than references, handbooks and other sources. Use of Internet search tools has grown significantly, from 59 percent of engineers surveyed in 2010 to 78 percent of engineers surveyed in 2013. Yet, engineers do not easily find the specific equations they need for a variety of engineer tasks online. There is also low satisfaction with the process of documenting, validating and saving equations for future use.

In the 2013 survey of 200 engineers, primarily mechanical engineers from companies with more than 1,000 employees, online search surpassed printed material (including books and manuals) as the first place engineers go to find equations. 92 percent of engineers searching online rely on public search engines such as Google, up from 41 percent in 2010. Although Google is the first place engineers turn, it is the least satisfying for results. Many things are easier to find online now, but specific equations are not among them.

Once engineers find the right equation, they face additional challenges including using the right tool to perform their calculations and accessing an integrated solution to validate and share calculations. 47 percent surveyed write the equation out on paper. Engineers rely on several different software tools, including scientific calculators, MATLAB and Mathcad, for their calculation needs. However, Microsoft Excel tops the list for use and dominates how engineers share equations. Excel was not designed with engineering needs in mind. While engineers do go online to search for the equations they need, they still go offline for calculation and validation of their work. Of note, 87 percent surveyed use their hard drive to save their calculation and 84 percent use Excel to share their calculation with peers.

"The web offers convenient and seemingly easy search options for engineers looking for resources to support them as they perform their jobs, but they need to find relevant and reliable answers they can trust to increase productivity as well as their confidence in the results," said Meagan Cooke, Senior Director of Product Management, Content at Knovel. "Focused on the needs of engineers, Knovel continuously engages with the engineering community to identify ways to improve the engineering workflow with tools and trusted content and data. This survey highlights some of the challenges that can be improved for engineers."  

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About Knovel

Part of the Elsevier product portfolio, Knovel is a cloud-based application integrating technical information with analytical and search tools to drive innovation and deliver answers engineers can trust. Knovel users include thousands of engineers and applied scientists worldwide. Knovel has more than 700 customers worldwide including 74 of the Fortune 500 companies, five of the Top 10 Constituents on the FTSE 100 Index and more than 450 leading universities. For more information, visit or call +1 (866) 240 8174.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries.

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