Telling stories with big data: Elsevier’s Analytical Services team
Our experts work with governments, funding bodies, universities and researchers to provide data-based evidence to inform strategic decisions in research
By Lei Pan, PhD Posted on 1 July 2014
What is the research performance of an institution compared to its peers? Is a certain country attractive to researchers from abroad for a short-term or a long-term stay? Which countries are producing, citing and downloading the publications on a certain theme? Are the publications produced by a country or institution cited in patent applications or downloaded by the corporate sector? How many researchers move between academia and industry?
Most researchers will know how to search for an article that they are interested in and download the article directly from Elsevier's databases such as Scopus and ScienceDirect. However, these same databases contain a wealth of information about researcher's behavior and performance, allowing us to answer these questions and more. Taken together, our data assets add up to terabytes of data. Our Analytical Services team processes these data using state-of-the-art big data technology. We use it to create new perspectives to help governments, funding bodies and universities define, manage and achieve their desired research outcomes, and to promote awareness of their impact.[divider]
How does our Analytical Services team work?
We serve a world of diverse clients who all have different needs and requirements. The figures below show a few examples. A UK client would like to assess the UK's position as a world leading research nation. The top left chart is taken from the "International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2013" report (covered by the Elsevier Connect article "How do the large research nations compare") conducted by us for the UK's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). It gives an overview of the UK's research performance compared to other leading research nations in the following areas:
- Research input (GERD)
- Research output (articles)
- Impact (citations and highly cited articles),
- Knowledge transfer (article downloads, patents and patent citations)
For a top Chinese university, aside from the need to understand its research performance compared to its international peers, its position within China is also a concern given the rapid growth in publications at the majority of Chinese universities. The bottom right figure tracks the university's changes in its rankings in publications and citations within China in major subject areas. The report was produced in Chinese, one of the languages we use in our reports along with English, French and Japanese.
As a second example, we take research collaboration in the United States. Collaboration has always been at the heart of high quality research, but its scope is different for the European Union countries and for the US. While international collaboration has always been the core of collaboration for EU countries, in the US, understanding cross-state collaboration is essential. The figure below is taken from our report "Comparative Benchmarking of European and US Research Collaboration and Researcher Mobility" for Science Europe. It shows the collaboration networks within the US (see also the Elsevier Connect article about this report here). The stronger the collaboration link between two states, the more they are drawn together. The size of the state represents the overall article output, and the color of the line indicates the impact of that particular collaboration.
Our analytical reports cover a wide range of topics
A non-exclusive list of our reports includes research output and impact, researcher mobility, international collaboration, and knowledge transfer between the academia and the industry. The above mentioned BIS report is a comprehensive report covering almost all of these topics. The Science Europe report focuses on researcher mobility and collaboration. The figure below is taken from this report.
The main takeaway from the figure is that many more researchers move between states in the US than between countries in Europe. This was to be expected, because of linguistic, cultural, and logistical barriers. However, these same barriers do not seem to hinder collaboration among European countries: these percentages are remarkably similar for the US and Europe.
We have also produced various reports on specific thematic areas. Via the Elsevier Fingerprint Engine, we can scan any piece of text such as an abstract from Scopus or internal data provided by the customer (description of a subject area, for example) and use a variety of thesauri and Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to scan and analyze the information and define a subject area. Two of these examples are the Stem Cell Report produced for the World Stem Cell Summit (#WSCS13) in San Diego in 2013, showing the trends in Stem Cell research (read about it in Elsevier Connect), and a study of the research on pediatric cancer for Villa Joep, a Dutch charity foundation supporting research on neuroblastoma, one of the mostly deadly and common cancers among young children.
Our reports are based on huge amount of data
The data we are handling include 700 million downloads on ScienceDirect per year, 80 thousand institution profiles on Scopus, 3 million researcher profiles on Mendeley and 13 million researcher profiles on Scopus as well as various external data sources such as OECD and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The three figures below take knowledge transfer analysis as an example to show how we use these various data sources in our analysis. The map uses ScienceDirect download data to show downloads of one university's publications from the corporate sector in different countries in the world.
Below, the left chart is based on LexisNexis patent citation data, showing the world patent citation share (normalized by publication share) for 11 leading research nations. Relative to its publication share, Germany's publications are most frequently cited in patent applications.
The right chart uses Scopus affiliation tracking to study mobility of researchers from academia to industry and vice versa for Japan: a large number of academic-industry movements occur domestically.
Together, these three figures provide a comprehensive picture on different aspects of knowledge transfer between academia and industry.
We work closely with the scientific community
We work together with governments, funding bodies, universities and researchers to find out what kind of research assessments would be valuable to them. Then we can use our data sources, big data technologies, and knowledge of what the data are able to show to create customized analyses and reports that are meaningful to our customers.
Analytical Services team members
Dr. Judith Kamalski, Manager Strategic Research Insights & Analytics, leads the Analytical Services team from the Amsterdam office. She holds a PhD in Psycholinguistics and is an expert on the use of bibliometric data to deepen customer insights and inform strategy. She has a leading role in all major projects for the team including the International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2013 and the Science Europe reports.
What do I enjoy the most about our work? Developing new analyses and methodologies by combining our understanding of the customer's needs — and the possibilities of our data and technologies.
Georgin Lau, Content & Analytics Product Manager (APAC), is based in Singapore and focuses on the APAC Analytics market. She studied applied statistics and is also a visualization expert who seeks to present data in the most understandable way. One of her current projects is the research assessment study on the discipline of brain research.
The strength of the team lies in the ability to interpret large amounts of data into information that helps our customer in their research performance assessment and decision making. The fun part is where we constantly explore and experiment with new analytical and visualization methods to make our insights more accessible.
George Lan, Content & Analytics Product Manager (North and South America), is based in New York. George studied Management Science at the MIT Sloan School of Management before joining Elsevier. At the moment, George is leading the work of extending the Analytics service in the US market. In addition, one of his current projects is a study on the state of STEM research in Sub-Saharan Africa for the World Bank.
Our data provides both a birds-eye view and very detailed perspective on the world of research. It's very exciting.
Dr. Lei Pan, Content & Analytics Product Manager (EMEA), is based in Amsterdam. She is an economist who is trained to let data provide evidence for policies. In her current role, she serves clients mainly in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and specializes in analyses for funding bodies and analyses using economic data. Lei has just finished a project on the research performance of the United Kingdom in Chemical Engineering for EPSRC.
Clients really make good use of our reports to inform important decisions. I am always very proud when I hear this from clients.
Michiel Schotten, National Research Assessments Manager, is based in Amsterdam. He holds an MSc in Marine Biology and is in the final stages of his PhD research on dolphin communication and echolocation at the University of Groningen. On the Analytics team, he is an expert on national research assessments, whereby Elsevier assists countries in evaluating their research institutions and researchers (often for the purpose of funding allocation) by providing Scopus data and custom analyses. Examples include the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) in the UK and the Excellence in Research for Australia assessments (ERA 2010 and 2012).
I find this work enormously interesting in that these national assessments often involve an Elsevier-wide effort, supported by very dedicated colleagues in the Customer Service teams, Sales, Product, Operations, Marketing and Corporate Relations. On top of that, my colleagues in the Analytical Services team are incredibly nice and smart people – a real pleasure to work with on a daily basis.
Steven Scheerooren, Content Analytics Support Manager, is based in Amsterdam but helps all product managers with various projects, ranging from correcting data issues to writing reports. He graduated from the University of Leiden as Japanologist and lived in Japan — one of Analytics' major markets — for one year. Steven is currently working on a pediatric cancer report for Villa Joep/ Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam .
With so much data available to us, I find it fascinating to be working on analyses for such a varied range of clients.