The departure of a tech titan is always big news in Silicon Valley. In one quiet corner of the Valley an upcoming departure is big news to a small group of people on two continents: Travis Brooks, the leader of SLAC effort in INSPIRE, is leaving.

In 2002, when Travis joined the SLAC Library, SPIRES was starting to show its age. The database that over a decade earlier became the first website in North America still played a vital role in HEP research but it ran on aging software making it slow for users and difficult to manage for developers. Indeed, it always seemed only one new release of Solaris away from no longer working at all! Travis worked tirelessly to do something about this and drag SPIRES into the 21st Century.

As a result of his efforts CERN joined with the SPIRES partners, DESY, Fermilab and SLAC to produce a new service that would meet the information needs of the HEP community using Invenio, a modern software platform. Work began in earnest on INSPIRE in 2007 and this month, September 2011, shortly before Travis leaves, SPIRES will be switched off and INSPIRE will take its place. The past four years have seen Travis contribute leadership to a collaboration of dozens of people, spanning 9 time zones, which seemed to require almost as much innovation in communication logistics as it did in database development.

All of us who have worked with Travis appreciate his talents, congratulate him on the success of launching INSPIRE, thank him for leaving the project in such good shape and wish him well with his new endeavors.

Heath O’Connell

SPIRES, the high-energy physics publications database, will soon be replaced by INSPIRE, a new service that offers many improvements over what users can currently access. On September 17 the SPIRES database will stop being maintained and users will be required to access INSPIRE for up-to-date information.

Among the improvements in INSPIRE are: faster and improved searches, author disambiguation, full-text searches of papers, searchable figure captions, and search of LHC experimental notes.

More information about the transition and the new capabilities of INSPIRE is available at and by following @inspirehep on Twitter.

INSPIRE has built on research of what users most need and want by a team from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, CERN, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. SPIRES is currently maintained by SLAC, DESY, and Fermilab.

SPIRES started operating in 1974 and now receives more than one million searches per month. It has become a key resource for high-energy physicists in finding and understanding the scientific literature.

INSPIRE currently operates in beta mode at and approximately half of high-energy physicists have tried the new database. As more people use the new service, it is being tweaked to improve its functionality.

All physicists are encouraged to try out the INSPIRES database before SPIRES is no longer supported and provide any feedback they have through the forms on the site or to

Citations are an important part of the service INSPIRE provides, as we know from your feedback. Ensuring that your citations are correctly counted requires an enormous amount of technical infrastructure and human effort in order to keep the reference lists of records current.   Not only do we parse references from many different formats in LaTeX and PDF, but papers are updated both at arXiv and in the process of publication in a journal, and of course there are plain old mistakes and omissions.

Over time at SPIRES we developed a mechanism for feedback if you find an error in our reference lists, but those of you who used it regularly know that it was very tedious to get all the information in the right format for us to enter easily.  Fortunately, INSPIRE brings us into the 21st Century with a new web-based form that allows you to add references to a record without cutting and pasting or having to know the abbreviations of journal names by heart.

For details on how to use this new form see:

This form should make it much easier to add missing references than our previous methods, and allows our INSPIRE team to approve your corrections quickly.  

Heath O’Connell


The INSPIRE literature database, successor to the SPIRES literature database, will soon leave the beta stage as its teething troubles have been overcome (or soon will be) thanks to generous feedback from our users.

So now it’s time for the other SPIRES databases (conferences, experiments, hepnames, institutions, jobs) to follow suit and make their transition to INSPIRE. The second one to migrate has been the INSTITUTION database, now accessible at It offers information on about 10k institutions worldwide publishing HEP-related material.
You will witness major changes to this database over the next months, among them a more consistent and transparent naming of the affiliations in HEP records, more detailed information on papers published by an institution, geographical distribution, collaboration networks and more.

Annette (CERN)

For as long as the annual topcited papers lists have been around, the all-time champion has been Weinberg’s “A model of leptons”, the 1967 paper that laid the foundation stone for the Standard Model. 30 years later, in November of 1997, the paper The Large N limit of superconformal field theories and supergravity by Maldacena appeared that established a connection between string theory and quantum field theory. It immediately set of a revolution in HEP and was the most highly cited paper ever since. Remarkably, its highest citation count was in 2010, where it received over 1,000 citations in a single year! One reason for this is the heavy ion results from Brookhaven that drew people to conclude that, based on Maldacena’s work, the quark gluon plasma can be modeled using string theory techniques.

INSPIRE runs on the Invenio search engine, making it much faster and more powerful than SPIRES. You have a choice among various search methods.

The easiest is “Google-like” search. There’s probably no quicker way to find a couple of papers by Thomas and Crewther about quarks in 2002 than just typing “thomas crewther quark 2002” into the search box.

Invenio syntax allows smart searches that were impossible with SPIRES. Say you’re interested in finding papers that Parke has written, and that Witten has cited, the author: and the citedby: operators are for you: author:parke citedby:author:witten“. You could alternatively look for the papers that Witten has written which refer to these papers by Parke, with the refersto: operator “author:witten refersto:author:parke

Of course, SPIRES syntax is there…to stay. Just remember to put “find” in front of your query to tell our search engine you’d like to use SPIRES-style searching. You can also use the refers to and cited by in SPIRES syntax “find date last month and refersto a ellis” to find recent papers referring to papers by Ellis.

We’ve seen from logfiles, and a few of you have contacted us (thanks!), that most people wanted SPIRES-like searching and that many searches failed because of a missing “find”. So, just remember to put “find” in front of your queries.

So why are there several ways to search in INSPIRE? Why not just accept SPIRES-style searches only? Because there are already a large fraction, though not a majority, of users who enjoy Google-like and Invenio syntaxes. Initial feedback is that those are more natural, more powerful, and/or more succinct for their purposes. So our search interface has to balance the different needs of many users, those who love the tried and tested SPIRES-style syntax and those (on the rise) who requested Google-like syntax. We strive to be useful for all.

Driven by user feedback we are working to improve the search experience for our users. We’ve made small changes, like adding a more prominent note about using “find” to trigger SPIRES searching or removing a drop-down menu with a list of search types which caused some confusion. At the same time, we are working on ways to smartly detect what syntax is meant. You might type a few words and we would try to figure out if you meant a SPIRES syntax, an Invenio one, or a Google-style one. This is nontrivial to do without sacrificing some search speed. Since many of the failed searches in our log files were author searches we’ve done a first step in that direction: a query starting with “a ” or “author ” is now interpreted as a search in SPIRES syntax. If our log files show a decrease of search failures in the near future we’ll also include other common SPIRES search terms like “t” for title.

We will continue to improve the search interface of INSPIRE – but we can only do this if we know what’s wrong. If something annoys you, we’ll cannot fix it unless you let us know. We’d much rather hear a complaint from someone who cares enough to send it than silence from someone who doesn’t care enough to help the community improve its tools.

On behalf of the INSPIRE team at CERN, DESY, Fermilab and SLAC, I’d like to welcome you to the INSPIRE blog.   Here our aim is to communicate with INSPIRE users about newly released features, plans for the service and other items that might be of interest to INSPIRE users.

We are, of course, spending most of our time building and running INSPIRE, so we won’t be posting here too often, but we hope to put something new here at least once a month.

For those who haven’t heard of INSPIRE, and how this replacement for SPIRES has come into being, you may find informative.   The folks who are running this service are, as explained there, for the most part the same folks who ran SPIRES.  Additionally we have been joined by our colleagues at CERN, so you’ll be hearing from all four labs here in this space, as well as when you send notes to INSPIRE’s help and feedback desks.