When researchers speak, Springer Science+Business Media listens. That’s the core philosophy behind Springer’s latest platform designed to serve the needs of corporate researchers. Springer for Research & Development joins the company’s expanding portfolio of content, tools, and products for the STM market.
“Springer for R&D represents a big step forward in the continued growth and development of tailor-made products for our corporate customers,” reported Peter Coebergh, president of corporate and healthcare markets for Springer Science+Business Media, when the platform was officially launched in late March. To appeal specifically to the corporate market, Springer is offering “new business models that are more in alignment with corporate customers’ business goals.”
Springer continues to build on its foundation of 170 years of expertise as one of the top STM publishers to deliver innovation to its users. The homepage for Springer for Research & Development boldly pronounces its mission right from the start: “Providing corporate and hospital researchers with access to millions of scientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols and reference works.”
Springer for Research & Development has plenty of STM content in its collection: More than 5.7 million documents from all STM areas, 50,000-plus ebooks (dating from 2005), 1,500-plus journals (dating from 1997) as well as a journal archive (dating before 1997), 27,000-plus protocols, 200-plus reference works, and 200-plus book series.
“All of the articles for Springer for Research & Development are taken from SpringerLink, Springer’s online platform for the academic market,” says Brian Bishop, vice president of platform development at Springer Science+Business Media. “But we’ve optimized those materials for our corporate customers’ needs in an all-new platform.”
The product development team that designed Springer for Research & Development asked corporate researchers at the start what they needed and how their workflows could best be streamlined. Bishop and his team conducted extensive background research, relying on focus groups, usability studies, and one-to-one interviews to lay the preliminary groundwork.
“We realized that a researcher’s needs are interdisciplinary,” says Bishop. “We knew that the new platform had to be tailored and customized to meet the needs of the corporate market, and that market wanted to ability to retrieve information fast.”
The work on the new platform, which went from concept to beta in about 7 months, began in May 2011 with the goal of creating a better user experience for corporate researchers so they could find content faster and easier. At the end of the design phase, the product development team put the platform to the test and asked users to try out the beta version. After users put the platform through its paces, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, says Bishop, who generated a tag cloud of the responses that ranged from “clean” to “business-like” to “professional.”
“This was a dream project,” says Bishop. “We didn’t have any legacy code to deal with. We built this platform from scratch,” creating an innovative format that focuses on industry sectors. The Springer development team knew that researchers aren’t confined to search in a single topic area. For example, a researcher in the aerospace industry doesn’t limit search to simple rocket science. Rather, search delves into myriad categories that can range from physical and analytical chemistry to human genetics and environmental engineering to cardiology and angiology.
The platform sports a clean interface with easy-to-navigate sections that pull in Springer content (articles, chapters, reference work entries, and protocols) along with access to Springer.com, SpringerImages, SpringerMaterials, SpringerProtocols, and SpringerReference.
The left panel on the homepage has a tab where users can browse by 15 industry sectors (Automotive; Aerospace; Biotechnology; Chemical Manufacturing; Consumer Packaged Goods; Electronics; Energy, Utilities & Environment; Finance, Business & Banking; Health & Hospitals; IT & Software; Law; Materials & Steel; Oil, Gas & Geosciences; Pharma; and Telecommunication). Or users can browse by 21 disciplines: Biomedical Sciences; Business & Management; Chemistry; Computer Sciences; Earth Sciences & Geography; Economics; Education & Language; Energy; Engineering; Environmental Sciences; Food Science & Nutrition; Law; Life Sciences; Materials; Mathematics; Medicine; Physics; Psychology; Public Health; Social Sciences; and Statistics.
The center panel features a list of new industry-specific books and journals (including cover images), and there’s a section highlighting what’s being read by your colleagues within your organization. Click on any of the categories on the left for a list of subtopics with faceted results for journals, books, and articles. The faceted one-click search process is highly intuitive with semantic linking that generates quick, targeted results.
At the top right of the results box are two icons, one for RSS and the other for Download Search Results. The Aerospace researcher, for example, can find exactly what has been Recently Published in Aerospace, including original papers and timely new book titles that have been added to the collection. On the left are options to further refine a search: by Content Type (article, chapter, book, and journal), by Discipline or Subdiscipline, Published In, and Language (English, German).
The search box at the top of the page offers simple search (with autosuggest) or advanced search by clicking on the gear icon. Advanced searchers have choices: Boolean, wild cards, search only in a certain field, exact phrases, contents page, and a search “near” term option within five words, says Bishop.
At the article level, users can view the results without leaving the original screen, thanks to pop-up windows. Clicking on the Look Inside link generates a pop-up window with the first two pages of the actual paper for preview (regardless of license limitations). The Get Access link triggers another pop up that offers information on how the article can be purchased on Springer.com.
Users can also click on horizontal bars aptly named Related (content), Supplementary Material, References, and About this Article to find related documents, read abstracts, export citations, and review details about the specific journal issue, publication date, etc. “The additional information is easily accessible if the researcher wants it,” says Bishop. “Otherwise, it’s hidden from view to keep the screen uncluttered.”
Researchers can also cut to the chase and filter their results according to what they know they can access according to their site license. While a researcher may not have access to a particular article (as noted by the locked icon), the user can still view a preliminary three-line abstract, along with the author(s), publication, and publication date. Accessible articles can be downloaded easily via View Article or PDF with one click.
For researchers who click on the Look Inside feature, they can toggle between the cover and the inside page, one of the many features that Bishop’s confesses he likes in the new platform. One of the other big drawing cards is the platform’s agility, which will improve usability going forward by developing and deploying new features quickly.
“We can plan on having a new release every week to enhance everything from design elements to usability issues,” says Bishop. The team is already working on enhancements that will be rolled out in the next few months, from expanding the abstract page to pulling in data from outside Springer, including blogs, tweets, and functionality from Mendeley, he says.
Mobile access was another big concern for the development team who ensured 24/7 access anywhere anytime. Bishop says using HTML5 and CSS3 under the hood helps tailor Springer for Research & Development to any device, from desktop to laptop to mobile.
“Our response design customizes the site to any device,” says Bishop. “The format follows the screen size and adjusts the page layout according to the width of the device,” he says, adding that Springer is moving toward a device-agnostic approach for its corporate products.
Bishop believes this new platform will be a game changer in search for the STM publishing marketplace that includes Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, Blackwell, and Wolters Kluwer. “Our search results on this platform are as fast as those of our fastest competitor and three times faster than SpringerLink,” he says.
In fact, the number of sales staff has been increased substantially (11 just for the U.S. market) to boost Springer for Research & Development’s presence in Canada, Europe, Latin America, Brazil, and Mexico, says Michael Aparicio, director of corporate and healthcare sales for The Americas.
Aparicio points to the added value the platform delivers for the corporate researcher and other stakeholders. Flexible business models can fit any corporate size and budget, he says, with annual or one-time license purchases. The librarian admin dashboard offers usage statistics to monitor ROI, usage behavior, and what’s actually being read among peers.
While Springer has been busy this summer resolving problems with a variety of “defects” with open access images and copyright issues in SpringerImages, the company has reaffirmed its commitment to its products and its community. In a “Statement from Springer concerning Springer Images,” dated June 12, 2012, Wim van der Stelt, executive vice president of corporate strategy at Springer Science+Business Media, noted: “Our dedicated team will continue to work as fast as it can to eliminate the remaining glitches. … We will also continue to listen to our authors, researchers and the wider scientific community not only to ensure that our high quality products remain so, but also to correct any bugs that they may have.”
Therefore, when you see the ubiquitous Feedback tab on the left side every page of Springer for Research & Development, there are plenty of eyes intent on garnering ongoing insights from users to build a better product. The community can ask a question, share an idea, report a problem, or give praise.
“We’re keeping it transparent so we can keep our community of users informed too,” says Bishop.