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Digital Science Adds Extra Dimensions to Scholarly Research Data
Posted On January 23, 2018
London-based technology company Digital Science announced the launch of Dimensions, a new platform that aims to transform scholarly search, making previously hidden information available to researchers. The service went live on Jan. 15 with an offering of more than 9 million OA articles, 124 million formerly siloed documents (i.e., those hidden from view in universities and other research organizations), 86 million articles and books, and 34 million patents. All of this is linked through 3.7 billion connections. Driven by requests and feedback from the company’s development partner community, the publication and citation data is freely available to individual researchers.

Digital Science was created in 2010 as a digital spinoff of Macmillan and Nature and today is separately owned and managed. It began investing in, acquiring, and creating a number of related companies in the IT space. Launched in 2015, the Global Research Identifier Database (GRID) identifies research institutions around the world. The Digital Science Consultancy comprises a team working on data cleaning, linking, and text mining for scholarly projects. figshare is a data management tool to store, preserve, and share scholarly research information. Altmetric provides comprehensive data on the attention that a researcher’s work is having in the field at large. ReadCube is a bibliographic citation management tool that allows users to work with every type of device to search, store, and manage information in the chosen field of research, as well as offer updates based on known interests. Symplectic is a research information management tool. ÜberResearch is a software company that provides solutions to nonprofits and organizations seeking funding. Digital Science has also collected more than 100 research funders and universities in its stable of research partners. (The company once offered another product named Dimensions, which was centered on funding.)

The Components of Dimensions

Dimensions has taken components of Digital Science’s diverse products and melded them into one platform that provides a universe of synthesized and accessible data to the serious researcher. One search leads the user to the citations and abstracts on any topic; the clinical trials, grants, and patents associated with it; the citations that any publication has gathered; and even data on which projects are generating tweets, blog articles, Facebook posts, and newspaper stories.

Furthermore, it reports data about the people who are generating this attention. These reports include geographic breakdowns as well as information about what type of researcher is involved. Digital Science management maintains that most such products on the market are one-dimensional, as they focus on just one aspect of research, namely publications. Dimensions will allow subscribers to trace a concept from grant awards through clinical trials, publications, and entry into the market. The company also points out that much ongoing research is siloed. This has the effect of producing redundant research when institutions are working on the same problem, unaware of the duplication of effort.

What Makes Dimensions Different

Dimensions eliminates barriers to discovery by making more than 860 million academic citations freely available and delivering one-click access to a massive and unique set of data. Built using real-world use cases, it has advanced semantic tools developed over 7 years by experts in the Digital Science companies.

The most basic form of Dimensions will be available for free to any interested researcher. A more functional version will be available to institutions using a pricing model designed to reduce the strain on budgets, allowing them to provide their community with a more comprehensive view of the research landscape. This will give institutional libraries the capability of integrating full-text access to existing subscriptions within the institution. “We believe that access to scholarly data should be available at a fair price,” says Christian Herzog, CEO of ÜberResearch, who is leading the Dimensions efforts within Digital Science. Management team members told me that the institutional price is generally more than 50% less than that of comparable products, which largely provide only publication and citation access.

According to Stephen Leicht, COO of Digital Science Discovery & Analytics Group and co-founder of ÜberResearch, in his work with Digital Science’s many partners, there was nearly unanimous interest in somebody creating a comprehensive database like this. The partners include major players in government, the private sector, and higher education. The management team members finally took it upon themselves to be the pioneers. Leicht says that after 23 years in the IT field, he sees this as a chance to help create a product that is world-changing. He believes that even in its infancy, Dimensions is worthy of being considered in the company of Google Scholar and Scopus.

Daniel Hook, CEO at Digital Science, says, “The Dimensions project is a response to an urgent need for a more modern and inclusive research information platform, one which truly services the needs of both researchers and research institutions. Digital Science has always placed a focus on close collaboration with the scholarly community to develop and deliver solutions that will directly benefit the future of research; in creating Dimensions, we are empowering researchers, institutions, government, funders and publishers to redefine the ways in which scholarly work is discovered and evaluated.”

Getting a First Look

Digital Science gave NewsBreaks an advance look at the subscription version of Dimensions. (I was told that the free version allows users to search only for publications, whereas the subscription version also has searches for grants, clinical trials, and patents. This extra material does show up to enhance the data in the publication searches.) With a search bar at the top and facets on the left, it was intuitive and easy to perform searches. In addition, to date, there are 13 facets for limiters such as location, funder, and field of research. There is also a chance to refine searches to OA publications only.

I noted that on a machine that was loaded with the Kopernio and Unpaywall applications in Chrome, numerous full-text articles were made available in Dimensions, whereas otherwise, only the citation and abstract would be provided. Additionally, Dimensions is making access to full texts available directly from the application without a browser extension required, and it is working actively with the Unpaywall team.

The Altmetric data in the enhanced Dimensions is particularly impressive. In the article “Signatures of Positive Selection and Local Adaptation to Urbanization in White-Footed Mice (Peromyscus leucopus),” we learn that there is an Altmetric score of 56, meaning that the article, published only in October 2017, has generated considerable attention from the press, on Twitter, and from Mendeley users. The entry shows that the article is in the top 5% in terms of attention. Further, we learn that the most likely readers are other scientists. Other articles show readership, including graduate students, faculty members, and medical practitioners. Each such entry includes a map of the world indicating which countries have noticed the research.

One important feature of each initial results screen is seen on the right-hand side of the display—a line graph showing activity on each topic within the last 10 years. Prospective grant applicants would obviously be more interested in a topic that is generating rising interest than a subject that peaked 8 years ago.

The default in each search set is to display the hits by date, with the most recent showing at the top. There is also a drop-down menu for other options. When there is a large set of hits (usually the case), I found it more useful to sort by relevance.

Sara Rouhi, director of engagement and advocacy for Dimensions, says, “In a nutshell, Dimensions makes exponentially more data and metrics—better linked and curated than anything currently available—freely available to researchers and sustainably priced to institutions.”

Dimensions is available now at For more information on licensing options, please get in touch with the Dimensions team at


Terry Ballard is a former systems librarian, retired after a 50-year library career. He is the author of three books and more than 100 articles, mostly about library automation. Further information can be found at, and he can be reached at

Email Terry Ballard

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