The INSPIRE Advisory Board counts eight experimental and theoretical physicists from participating laboratories and the community at large, plus the manager of INSPIRE’s sister service NASA Astrophysics Data System. The Board meets yearly, and the 2015 meeting took place at CERN on May 7. INSPIRE’s staff reviewed the team’s work during the previous year, and discussed with the Board the present challenges and the path ahead. The meeting of the Advisory Board is always a great opportunity for the INSPIRE team to reflect on last year’s achievements. After the meeting, we interviewed the chair of the advisory board, Michael E. Peskin, to hear his opinion on INSPIRE’s recent progress and its near future.

What is your impression of INSPIRE as an academic information service?

Michael E. Peskin. I have a long history with INSPIRE, I came to SLAC in 1982 and soon after that began interacting with the staff of the service. At that time it was the SPIRES information system, which I actually had used even before that. SPIRES first went online in the 1970s as a kind of terminal/command-line based service, where you hooked up on the internet, and put in some command-line statements that began with “q”, and out came a long list of bibliographic references. And this actually saved my life. In 1981. I was asked to give a review lecture at one of the big international conferences on composite models of quarks and leptons, a subject about which I knew very little. I put some queries into SPIRES, and out came reams of paper with 800 references, and I actually looked through most of them. Since then I have found it to be a very reliable service. It provides information on four high-energy physics areas (hep-th, hep-ph, hep-ex, hep-lat). It is as complete and correct as a bibliographic service can be. It is user-based so it is constantly being checked by all the users. It is multi-faceted, so it gives you direct keyword searching but also citation search. The citations are also used by people to construct stories about their careers. So that means that there is an incentive for people to very carefully check that all the links are correct and everything is provided. And actually citation searching is the most effective way of searching for any topic that you are not familiar with. The method is simple: you find a review paper, look at the papers that cite that review paper, and work your way back up the chain that presents itself. I have found this to be the most effective way of getting familiar with a scientific topic. But it requires that you have complete and detailed coverage of the field. INSPIRE has the level of coverage that is required.

What is your opinion about INSPIRE Labs?

M.P. There are some capabilities that I felt were much needed by INSPIRE. One of the strong motivations for the new framework of INSPIRE is the ability it gives for users to communicate back to the service. I think it is still true that, if you want to correct an error or add a reference, you fill a form or write an email, and then someone at INSPIRE has to parse that email, interpret it, and then take the correct action. This just wastes effort for everybody. The correct way to do this is to have a form submission that drives the user to enter information in the way that the database would like to receive it. Then it will be possible to act on user requests in just a few minutes. In that way we can build bibliographic entries, correct citations, give new citation links, and update the author pages and HEPNames data. I believe this is really the way the user input to the service really should work. And it is not only cool to provide such a service, but it is also a method that makes it much easier to maintain the integrity of the database with limited resources.

As part of INSPIRE Labs we are trying to test new features. What do you think should come next apart from the submission form?

M.P. The other part that really matters is the back end of the new framework. This gives the curators more effective tools to examine records. Eventually INSPIRE will incorporate machine learning to suggest changes in the records and, eventually, to fix things automatically. This also deserves a high priority. Besides that, everyone wants more effective searching.

How satisfied are you with INSPIRE’s operational improvements since the last 5 years?

M.P. Before the transition from SPIRES to INSPIRE, the old search engine had difficulty with the steadily increasing size and complexity of the database. Five years ago, the system was breaking down during periods of stress. Things have come a long way since then. You can still see some glitches but it is very rare that you see a serious problem.

And what about the content?

M.P. The content has increased, and this is amazing. A recent trend, aligned with the increased interest in our community in dark matter and dark energy, has been the expansion of the coverage of astrophysics. This is still an issue energetically discussed with the Advisory Board. Another trend has been the incorporation of informal public notes from the large collaborations, such as the CMS Physics Analysis Summaries. These often contain more information than the journal papers based on them and ought to be found in general INSPIRE searches. In any case, it is amazing how deep coverage of the different subjects have grown.

Which do you believe are the weakest areas of INSPIRE that should be improved?

M.P. I’ll give you two different answers: From the point of view of someone doing casual searching and trying to find a particular article or review, the size and coverage of the collection is very important. It is important to include the informal literature, as I have already noted. But, also, I use INSPIRE when I write evaluation letters for grant proposals or for appointments. I want to look everything a certain person has done,. People applying for positions or gants would like to have their personal records clear and easy to obtain. For that you need unique author identification, which is a big project. This is especially a problem for people from Asia. Recently I wrote an evaluation letter for a friend of mine born in China who has a very common last name. You cannot expect to simply put in his name and not get reams of garbage. INSPIRE gives authors the capability to claim papers and edit their profiles on their HEPnames page. He had not done that exercise, at least not recently. This led to his publications being mixed up with the publications of many other persons with that same name. The process of cleaning one’s personal record, and of identifying authors and citations has always been somewhat tedious. I hope that, with INSPIRE Labs and its new features, this problem will be reduced.

And, last question, in which direction do you see INSPIRE’s future heading towards?

M.P. I think the big question is, “Can we make machine learning algorithms sufficiently powerful that they can take over almost all of the burden from human curators?” The thing that makes INSPIRE so powerful right now, is that we start from arXiv, where authors type in the essential bibliographic information for their papers. But, still, people are human, and sometimes this information is ambiguous or incomplete, so we need to check it against other resources. Since this input is essentially imperfect, a lot of the effort must go into improving this stream of information so it can be used reliably by the academic community. There are not so many people that are willing to work as curators, but there is a lot of data in machine memory that with correct manipulation could revolutionize the way in which information is organized and managed. We are not there yet, in INSPIRE, Google, or any other service, but the situation continually improves.

INSPIRE has already brought a new way of accessing scientific resources. Today, journals are mainly used for historical data and publications. Papers from the 1980’s are still important, and they are accessed through journals. But a paper written in the past couple of years was probably issued as an eprint on arXiv. As an author, you don’t want to wait months for a journal to publish it, in order to make it public. As a reader, you want to find this in a literature search the day after it hits the internet.

But now we would like to go beyond the paper as a means of communication. I have already mentioned the fact that INSPIRE is now indexing public notes from large experimental collaborations that amplify the discussion in their papers. The next step is to provide numerical backup to these and other papers – digitizations of figures and even data sets on which the analysis is based. These data sets would not be the whole Petabyte data sets of the LHC experiments, but they could be considerably more than simple tables and lists of a few high-significance events. People who want to play with publicly released data will, more and more, be able to find it. If you write a paper based on a data set, you ought to cite the data. INSPIRE is now making it possible to index data sets directly, to provide citations for them, and to have links to the data sets appear in relevant searches.

These are two are the main directions in which INSPIRE should be reaching. High-energy physics is quite far in front of other fields when it comes to scientific information services. Being on the edge benefits us in our research, and I hope that we can stay in the front as this edge moves outward.

Personal names are neither unique nor permanent. You can write or transcribe them in different ways. You can get married and change your family name. You can even find colleagues in HEP with the same name, e.g. John Smith. What happens when the John Smith you are looking for writes a paper? How do you tell him apart from his namesakes and find his articles? And does that article written by J.C.Smith in 1993 on [Nuclear Physics Revolution], belong to your colleague John, or Jim C. from Stanford?  This is something INSPIRE has been working on for a long time. We introduced INSPIRE IDs to uniquely establish your identity in our HEPNames database and more recently Author Publication Profiles, such as J.Q.Physicist.1 to collect all your papers together. But this is only for HEP, what about the wider world? Publishers introduced their own identification systems, so you probably have noticed that you have ended up with many IDs that describe your academic publications and CVs. These disparate identifier systems suffer from only partial coverage of a researcher’s corpus and interoperability issues.ORCID to the rescue!

ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) is a non-profit organization supported by a global community of organizational members, including research organizations, publishers, funders, professional associations, and other stakeholders in the research ecosystem which  has developed a unique researcher identifier that distinguishes you from other researchers. ORCID ID can hold a record of all your research activities, variants of your name, affiliations, etc. You can also use it for manuscript submissions to most of the major publishers.

It helps you centralize your information and sign your work unambiguously, no matter how your personal details, affiliations or field of work change. It is also an invaluable tool to track impact and grant credit to authors. It is a single identifier that follows you throughout your career. Having an ORCID ID gives your professional circle the ability to see your publications and your work experience. To sum up, ORCID can provide you a detailed professional record, something that can be a very useful tool for researchers that want to keep their publications and research in the spotlight. Moreover, some of the biggest research libraries as INSPIRE are collaborating with ORCID, to offer one unique and widely accepted ID.

How does ORCID work?

To begin with, an ORCID ID is a unique 16-digit code (e.g.0000-0002-5769-7094), given to you upon the registration of your ORCID account. After registering you can manage all your information from your profile page. You can add as many details as you want and set the level of privacy you desire for the information you enter (public, limited, or private).

Fig 1: ORCID profile page

What makes ORCID special is its ability to synchronize content with other platforms and services. That means that you spend less time (re)entering data and have more time available to conduct research. At this time, well-known services collaborating with ORCID are Scopus, Nature, APS, Faculty of 1000. In case you are wondering what your publication page would look like in ORCID let’s have a look at a typical example in Fig. 2. You can also see that this person has connected  his ORCID with ResearcherID and Scopus:

Fig 2: ORCID publication page

If you are interested in creating your own ORCID, just click here.

INSPIRE has been working on some exciting new features! Publications are leading to their respective authors  but with help from ORCID, INSPIRE is going to be sure about the author’s identity and the procedure to claim your own publications will become easier.

Keep an eye on the INSPIRE-HEP blog and twitter for our next blog post, to better understand ORCID’s significance and use for INSPIRE and INSPIRE Labs!



As you might have read in our previous blog post, the new INSPIRE Labs website is the place where we will deploy and let you test new features.

Let us show you one of our new features: check out the Suggestion Forms on Labs!

Do you know about any publication (articles, proceedings, thesis) that is not on INSPIRE but could be an interesting addition? You can help us by letting us know about it via our new suggestion form. We will be happy to review it and include the content as soon as possible if it falls within our collection policy.


Fig 1: Submit publications automatically

To make it simple, we included an automatic import tool (Fig. 1). If you enter an arXiv number and/or a DOI to the form, INSPIRE Labs will automatically pre-fill as much publication information as possible.

You can also fill out or complete it manually (Fig. 2). Only a few fields are mandatory, but the more information you provide us, the more useful it would be for the readers. It is particularly important that the Author fields contain all the co-authors who wrote the publication, with each name in a separate input field, one on each line.

Fig 2: Submit publications manually

All the suggestions received will be reviewed by our team manually, to verify the content and complete the information following INSPIRE standards. This procedure can take a few days. Once the submission is approved, you will receive a confirmation e-mail and it will appear automatically in INSPIRE as a temporary record that will probably get further curation afterwards. Moreover, please do not worry if some processes like reference extraction and indexing may take some time.

You can find more information about how to use our suggestion form in our Help page.

We hope that you will find this new feature useful. As always, we are waiting for your feedback. You can send us an e-mail or try out the new Send Feedback widget on the right side of every INSPIRE Labs page. Let us know what you think about our new forms!

Ever wanted to just cut and paste a reference from a paper in INSPIRE and find the corresponding paper? We have worked hard to try to make this possible. You have two ways to do it:

rawref1Note that you must put your search in quotations when using rawref. However, you can omit the year when searching this way, e.g. find rawref “JHEP 1202 068”. Correct spacing is also not necessary, thus rawref:”Phys. Rev. D 90 064027″ and rawref:”Phys.Rev. D90 064027″ will yield the same result.

Any journal name variant listed in INSPIRE will work with rawref. You can find these variants by searching for a journal name in the Journal section of INSPIRE. Click the name for the detailed record, and then click the link for “Show name variants”.

namevariantsJournal record for Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research

Rawref:”Nucl.Instrum.Meth. A584 (2008) 75″, rawref:”Nucl. Inst. and Meth. Phys. Res. A584 (2008) 75″, and rawref:”NIM A584 (2008) 75″ are all valid searches.

If you just paste a reference in the search bar without ‘find rawref’, INSPIRE-HEP will try to guess what paper you are looking for.

journalhintJHEP 1202 (2012) 068

 Please contact us at if you have any comments or suggestions for improving INSPIRE.

Usually we add DOIs and update INSPIRE to reflect the fact that articles are published within a few weeks of publication. This information is taken from feeds INSPIRE receives from publishers. We try to find the corresponding preprint in a semi-automatic way and add the publication information. Sometimes this process is delayed or fails. If after waiting patiently for updates you do believe there is a failure in the process, please let us know, as other articles might be affected as well.

But did you know that the quickest way to add a DOI and journal publication information to preprints in INSPIRE is to update them in arXiv? While this may seem like an indirect method, authors have direct control over their papers on arXiv (via paper password) and can easily augment information there in an authenticated way. INSPIRE automatically receives these updates within just a day or two. This can be done at any time, and adding the publication information on arXiv does not result in a new version either in arXiv or in INSPIRE.

Once you’ve logged in at arXiv, click the Journal ref symbol beside the papers you’d like to update.


This will take you to a page where you can enter the relevant information.


More information on how to do this can be found at the arXiv help page on the topic.

Doing this on arXiv has several advantages. Information updated on arXiv will flow to other services as well, whereas information added to INSPIRE currently doesn’t propagate yet. While arXiv can process such requests automatically due to the login, it requires manual intervention at INSPIRE and hence it may take more time for the updates to appear. If you have any comments or questions on this topic, drop us a line at

As mentioned before, we have started re-designing INSPIRE and your feedback is proving to be precious! Our colleague Robin Colignon will share his thoughts about the importance of usability and how we are using it to improve INSPIRE.

Why is usability important?

If a website is too hard to understand, difficult to use, or the information is not arranged in a logical manner, most of the users feel frustrated and eventually leave and never come back.

Usability concepts cover both the ease of use and learnability of any human-made object, such as a website. Considering usability allows developers and designers to create easy-to-understand interfaces, provide well-organized information, and increase the users’ effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction.

If you have questions concerning usability, the following website will provide you further information:

INSPIRE’s new home page

Information architecture tackles the structural design of shared information environments to support findability and usability. Thus, the new information achitecture for INSPIRE focuses on the core functionalities and the content provided.

But before re-designing it we have to understand which ones are the most valuable features for our users; the best way to obtain such information is to ask the community directly.

We ran card sorting tests with our volunteer users, where they could organize the current content of INSPIRE as they thought they should be categorized, highlighted, or excluded. Every tester could group the cards according to their own preferences and provide new names and descriptions.




These insights enlightened us and helped us create a first design interface that takes your needs and requests into account.

Have a look at our first proposal. The mock-up shows how the home page could look like:


This is just a small teaser! We will be running lots of user tests during our re-design. If you are interested, come back in a few weeks to discover more or join us as a tester. We will be happy to share this experience with you! Contact us at

Robin Colignon is an expert in UX/UI working on the re-design of INSPIRE. He graduated in Information System and Services Science and in Computer Science from the Université de Genève. His interests include user-centered design and interfaces.

Those of you following us on Twitter have already seen that the INSPIRE team contributed to this year’s Open Repository conference in Helsinki.

We were there to share our experience and features with other state of the art services. Also, we took advantage of the event to discover other services that could provide further content to INSPIRE, so we can provide you with a complete picture of your research.


This year, a big part of the presentations focused on data. DOIs for citable data are already a reality in many disciplines. But, as it turned out, it looks like INSPIRE is one of the very few around that can actually track citations to data. Have a look at one example of data reuse and citation tracking in INSPIRE.

ORCID iDs were another important topic during the conference. Many systems, from data repositories to publishers, are integrating them as author identifiers. They enable you to connect your research globally, import and export your publication list, independently of the backend used by each platform.

On INSPIRE, you can link your ORCID with your author profile. This will help us to discover your publications in other fields (e.g. condensed matter or mathematics) and enrich your profile. During the conference, we also presented a preview of our new author pages. They will be deployed next week, stay tuned!
Finally, during the dedicated Invenio session (the software INSPIRE is built on), we presented a first sneak peek of the INSPIRE Labs website. With a brand new modern design, we will use it to test many of the new features coming to INSPIRE. Let us know at if you want to become an INSPIRE tester and start experimenting with them very soon!

The INSPIRE Advisory Board meets once a year to hear about progress in the services and feedback from the user community. We recently took stock of progress in our service, its hardware, software, and the new areas we are starting to focus on.

Our Advisory Board counts seven experimental and theoretical physicists from the participating laboratories and the community at large, plus the manager of our sister service NASA Astrophysics Data System. The 2014 meeting took place at Fermilab in May. INSPIRE staff from the five participating laboratories (CERN, DESY, IHEP, Fermilab and SLAC) presented to the Advisory Board an extensive overview of the team’s work during the previous year, along with current challenges and future directions. Among the topics were the organization of our service, the user feedback, the content selection and processing.

The meeting of the INSPIRE Advisory Board is a great opportunity for the INSPIRE team to reflect on the last year’s achievement. We are proud to share some highlights with our entire user community:

  • We made extensive operational improvements to the INSPIRE infrastructure, including new hardware and architecture, major refactoring of the INSPIRE code base, and significant process improvements. While invisible to users, these improvements ensure continuing speed and reliability and allow us to prepare for future development.
  • We mused about future directions for the design of INSPIRE and how to bring together our classic search experience with interaction design and modern web design standards, especially for new services such as author profiles and a more efficient submission of corrections and feedback.
  • We realized how much effort we were able to devote to support open research data. In addition to helping make the ATLAS Higgs likelihood available in a citable way, we also started to link papers to code from GitHub, and integrated third-party data repositories.
  • We reviewed all new content we have been adding to INSPIRE: daily upload of the LHC experimental notes CMS-PAS, ATLAS-CONF, and LHCb-CONF, increased coverage of nuclear physics, and the upload of the PDFs of approximately 10,000 relevant articles from Proceedings of Science, which are now searcheable.
  • We invested additional resources to meet expectations of a timely update of references, authors, and other information of articles we receive from arXiv and beyond. Parts of this process are still manual. During the last year we cleared over 10,000 existing tasks. Our ongoing backlog is now around 1,500 tasks, the lowest in several years. It usually takes us between a day and less than a month to process these tasks.
  • The meeting was an ideal opportunity to welcome IHEP as a new member of the INSPIRE collaboration.

The meeting was an enjoyable, lively exchange, providing lots of food for thought as INSPIRE moves forward.

During the course of our conversations, John Beacom, Advisory Board member, was “impressed with the significant efficiency gains for internal processes and author disambiguation, and strongly encourages further co-operation with ADS to improve coverage of astrophysics and cosmology.”

Our recent efforts in handling experimental data within INSPIRE are being appreciated by the Advisory Board. Kyle Cranmer remarked that “data and code are becoming increasingly important as research products, treating them as first class citizens within INSPIRE is an exciting new direction for the field.” Michelangelo Mangano was “impressed by the rapid response of the INSPIRE team to all suggestions from the community and the Advisory Board, and look[s] forward to continued progress in streamlining the access to the experimental data, also in cooperation with the HEPdata project.”

The INSPIRE Advisory Board is an invaluable source of insight and a trusted representative of the community we serve. Its input, together with the hundreds of e-mails and suggestions we receive from our community make sure that INSPIRE stays true to its course: to be an indispensable service for the High Energy Physics community worldwide.

The INSPIRE team is excited to announce that the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IHEP) has joined the INSPIRE collaboration. IHEP is the fifth laboratory to contribute to this global effort at the service of the worldwide High-Energy Physics community, alongside CERN, DESY, Fermilab and SLAC.

This new partnership is an exciting step in the way our services have evolved over the last four decades. The INSPIRE predecessor, SPIRES, started in the ‘70s as a High-Energy Physics publication database, jointly operated by SLAC and DESY. From a dissemination of printed lists of pre-prints and articles, SPIRES then was searchable by email and became the first website in North America and first database accessible through the World Wide Web in 1991. Having started supporting the effort in the ‘90s, Fermilab fully joined the team in the early 2000s. As of 2007, with the arrival of CERN, the INSPIRE collaboration was born. A fully new infrastructure and augmented services were launched in 2010, replacing SPIRES with the modern INSPIRE. As High-Energy Physics is becoming truly global, with stronger and stronger collaborations across the three regions, IHEP becomes the first Asian member to join the INSPIRE collaboration.

As the most prestigious research center of particle physics, advanced accelerator physics and technologies, and radiation technologies and application in China, IHEP both supports established scientists and nourishes young talents ever since its establishment. With decades of development, IHEP is now one of the leading scientific research centers in the world. The information services department of IHEP plays a crucial role in collecting, curating and providing scientific information for researchers in China. A leader in global collaboration in China, in 1994 IHEP became the first institution in the country to have a fully operational world-wide Internet connection. IHEP led the way for other Chinese scientific institutes in using advanced information technology and making scholarly works publicly available to the global community. These achievements resonate with the mission of INSPIRE: to create a community based information system that supports scholarly communication.

Under strong support from IHEP and the other four laboratories, on May 8th Runsheng Yu of the IHEP information services department visited Fermilab to speak at the INSPIRE Advisory Board meeting. He outlined IHEP’s plans to contribute to INSPIRE, and we expect to see great improvements in the disambiguation of Chinese physicists’ names both at their home institute and worldwide. IHEP is working hard to enhance Chinese HEPNames records, which will make it much easier to differentiate Chinese authors from one another and give them the recognition they deserve. This work must be done by hand in order to ensure the accuracy of the information in the database.

We look forward to a long and harmonious collaboration with IHEP, and are excited to be reaching further out to the HEP community worldwide with our first partner in Asia.

Collaborative post by Xiaoli Chen and Melissa Clegg
INSPIRE has always relied on your feedback to understand what is significant to you.

In 2013 several hundred INSPIRE users replied to a feedback survey. We learnt a lot on what you find important and what you wish was better. We have already improved things based on your suggestions.

We are now looking for volunteers to test some of the next features on INSPIRE.

Recently we started conducting such usability testing sessions as we want to involve you more in the development.

At this time we are working on face-to-face testing. If you are based at CERN, and are willing to take a moment to contribute, we would be more than happy to hear from you at

If you are based elsewhere – we will be soon conducting online testing sessions, too. Let us know if you would like to take part:

Spend your coffee break with us to improve INSPIRE!