The information system supporting research

Access to expert commentary and insight – and an invitation to co-create the system of the future

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We created this resource center for researchers, research leaders, librarians, funders, policymakers and anyone else interested in the information system supporting research. The site will be updated as new resources and data become available.


What is the information system supporting research?

While the technology revolution has brought significant advancements by making an unprecedented amount of data available to researchers, this abundance also presents significant challenges. With more and more data sets and knowledge extracted from that data, it's nearly impossible to decide what is useful for any particular piece of research. Even staying current is becoming increasingly difficult.

We think of the universe of the tools researchers have at their disposal to execute these tasks as the “information system supporting research.” That system has been around for more than 100 years. Today’s challenge is that the existing information system is both outdated and fragmented across many applications and resources, often burdening researchers instead of supporting them.

We set up this resource center to explore how we might collectively improve the information system so it meets the needs of researchers. We see ourselves in a supporting role, working jointly with researchers, research institutions and funders to develop tools together that put researchers at the center and help them do their important work.

If you have ideas and want to get in touch, please email us.

Video: "The information system supporting research"

At Elsevier, we aim to help people throughout the research community work even more efficiently so they can spend more time making breakthrough discoveries. To support their progress, we’re taking on challenges affecting the effectiveness and practicalities of the information system and exploring ideas to address them. In this video, filmed in our Alphabeta office in London, three Elsevier research leaders talk about:

  • The demands researchers are facing, including evaluating sources’ trustworthiness, finding collaborators and communicating research’s impact.
  • Products that allow source neutrality and how we’re enabling components from different providers to work together to give researchers the power to access the fullest amount of information in the ways they prefer.
  • How we’re supporting a transparent information system for researchers, allowing complete visibility of where recommendations come from, for example, and the option of opt-outs.
  • What we’re doing to put the researcher in control in the information system, supporting the critical decisions they need to make.
  • How we are helping researchers stay up to date, read articles at different stages of the knowledge lifecycle, and manage their data.

Infographic: 4 principles of the information system supporting research

For more than 100 years, the information system supporting research has been based on trust in research’s method of inquiry, experiment, peer-review and revision. This element of trust must continue to be in place no matter how the information system evolves. We believe four principles are critical:

  • Source-neutral: The information system must include tools, data and content from a great many institutions, vendors, platforms and publishers. No researcher wants to rely on a fraction of available sources only.
  • Interoperability: Applications, tools and data sets from different providers must work together, ensuring researchers can use whichever platform they prefer while maintaining a seamless workflow experience.
  • Transparent: If an automated application makes a recommendation, researchers need to know how that recommendation was arrived at.
  • Researcher in control: No one technology can, nor should, make decisions on behalf of the researcher. Rather, the information system supporting research needs to put the user in control, supporting the critical decisions they have to make.

At Elsevier, we’re working with the research community to optimize the information system supporting research. This infographic shows how we see the four core principles in action among our existing products.

Infographic of the information system supporting research.

Editorial: "A vision for the information system supporting research"

Elsevier's President of Research on making the research lifecycle more transparent and connected — and putting the research in control

Dominic Feltham, President of Research, talks with employees about research strategy at Elsevier. (Photo by Alison Bert)

In an editorial about the information system supporting research, Dominic Feltham, President of Research at Elsevier, writes about the need for a new "information system supporting research," and shares his thoughts on the fundamental principles of such a system.

While the data revolution has helped researchers push boundaries, it has also brought challenges in the form of information overload. Meanwhile, the tools researchers are using are not as effective as they could be:

Today, the universe of tools researchers have at their disposal – the 'information system supporting research,' as we sometimes call it – is both outdated and fragmented. Companies like Elsevier bear some responsibility for this. There are lots of applications and resources available to researchers, but they are not interconnected or seamless to use. We are trying to help the best minds of the 21st century on a 20th-century system.

Through extensive conversations and feedback from researchers, managers of research institutions and funders, Feltham writes, four core principles are emerging that will be critical to creating an information system that meets their needs. Such a system would have to be interoperable, source-neutral, transparent — and centered around the researcher.

The system must put the researcher in control. We need to help create solutions that put user needs first; people should be able to set their own preferences and parameters, including the choice of whether to share data sets and conclusions. No one technology can, or should, make decisions on behalf of the researcher.

Feltham concludes that the creation of this information system should be a community endeavor.

At Elsevier, we see ourselves in a supporting role, working jointly with researchers, research institutions and funders to develop tools that put researchers at the center and help them do their important work. This is meant to be an invitation to co-create the answers for the future.

Read the full editorial here.

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