How Databases Help Find Relevant Data For Research Faster

ITMO University Center for Scientific Communication hosted an open seminar by Springer Nature where company reps showed how to use online specialized data bases Springer Materials and Springer Nano for to save time and solve routine issues during research.

Why Use Databases

Russian scientists mostly publish in Springer Nature journals: seven out of ten most used for publication journals are owned by this publishing house. Also, publishing activity by Russian scientists has been growing 4% annually since 2010, which is higher than in Western Europe. Most of Russian articles are in Physics and Chemistry, as well as in Clinical Medicine, natural sciences and Geology.

The number of publications in nanotechnology is also growing.  In 2000, Russian scientists published about 1,000 articles in this area, while currently this figure is at 5,500.  Higher numbers are only by researchers in Iran, China, India and South Korea. Scientific activity in this area is justified by the statistics that the use of nanotechnology in the industry is increasing by more than 18% every year. Today there are more than 8000 products that involve at least one nanotechnology in their manufacturing process. New solutions in this area are being developed in almost two thousand companies in 53 countries.

The use of databases, where scientific articles are not only collected in one place, but also sorted according to certain criteria, can significantly simplify the work of the scientist, according to Springer Nature. At the seminar company reps presented two bases: Springer Materials and Springer Nano.

"The significance of these bases is that a scientist can use a single resource to look up literature on his problem, formulate a hypothesis, analyze the information related to it, and interpret it for his work. Our databases have advanced search engines, that is, filters, through which you can sort out the search results in advance,” said Michael Leuschner, Springer Nature VP of Database Sales.

The company uses machine learning to complete its databases, which sorts the texts of articles by parameters and ontologies. The materials are also peer reviewed. Database search engines allow scientists to save time on gathering information in order to focus on experiments or solving fundamental issues.

What Issues Researchers Can’t Solve with Other Online Instruments

Representatives of Springer Nature conducted a survey among nanotechnology scientists about the problems they face when using, for example, Google Scholar or Web of Science databases. The top five problems included:

  1. A huge number of irrelevant search query results.
  2. To check if the article contains the necessary information, you need to read it in full, even if only one paragraph will end up being useful.
  3. The number of publications is growing every year, but all of them are scattered in different journals and sources: scientists lack knowledge transfer from different areas of nanotechnology research.
  4. There is no list of different nanomaterials and devices based on them that would describe their material properties and specific applications. In this case, the characteristics and physical properties of nanomaterials depend on their size and shape.
  5. Articles often include detail description of experiment preparation, which is not interesting for a scientists working on an adjacent topic.

There are some of the problems that Springer Materials and Springer Nano are designed to solve, according to Amir Gheisi, one of the designers of Springer Nano.

Springer Nano

This database contains more than 630,000 articles in the field of nanotechnology and more than 240,000 descriptions of various nanomaterials. Search on the platform begins with the input of keywords, for example, "electrical conductivity", which pulls up a list of article with this keyword in their headline. However, the user can specify the search terms by selecting, for example, articles from specific journals, with a certain citation level. The extent to which an article suits a scientist for his problem can also be determined from other keywords that are encountered in the article and which can be viewed without opening the article itself. Articles can also be sorted by the type of nanomaterial.

Springer Materials

This database will be more useful to scientists in the field of natural sciences. It can be used to determine the properties of different materials, study their structures, compare them with other materials, and, of course, search for the necessary materials for experiments and basic research. The base is formed of 290 thousand different materials. Updates of the platform are peer-reviewed.

The search can be conducted both by element and by its structure. In the first case, the scientist writes the name of the element with a keyword depending on the topic. Search results can also be filtered. In the second case, the user selects the connection structure from the templates, if necessary, draws the schema, and sees all the elements in which there is a similar structure. You can also add various elements of the structure to learn more about how they affect the properties of the material. In both cases, the researcher sees related scientific articles and can compare different materials among themselves.

Thus, the time of searching for information using these databases is reduced several times compared to other databases, stressed Amir Gheisi. Structured information allows to quickly find relevant articles to meet the researcher’s needs.

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