While this won’t catch the as much press as the LHC’s upcoming steps towards a physics run, but there are big changes coming up in 2010 to the way high energy physics literature is organized. This is very important: the vast databases of physics literature available at our finger tips through the Internet are what separate us from the cavemen. (Er… something like that.)
Speaking of cavemen, those familiar with the history of the web at CERN will not be surprised to find out that the first webpage hosted in North America was a particle physics literature database, SPIRES, operated by the SLAC National Laboratory. The database allows anyone in the world to look up bibliographic data about a range of documents including items that aren’t journal-submitted papers: PhD theses, conference talks, technical notes, and even video recordings.
CERN has its own library management system, Invenio, whose killer application is the fantastic CERN document server. The CDS has a broad collection of materials, including a nice set of general audience videos that readers of this blog might like. The two systems have their own strengths: SPIRES is known for its ability to work with metadata while Invenio’s architecture is known for its scalability and performance. So, after a survey of high energy physicists, it’s no surprise that SLAC and CERN (along with Fermilab and the German HEP lab DESY) combined their resources to implement SPIRES “user-level functionalities” within the Invenio framework.
The resulting combined project was christened INSPIRE and the plan is to have a user release sometime next year. INSPIRE aims to produce a unified, modern HEP database that’s not based only on papers (and more recently recorded talks), but more generally information. This includes computer code, data, and figures. Instead of just searching, it also aims to tap into the potential of the Web 2.0 by implementing a rating system, following individual users, and even tracking data usage.
[Now for some shameless self promotion: these are all functions that I wrote about two years ago, likening them to link aggregation sites like Digg, e-commerce a la Amazon, and the grand-daddy of Web 2.0: Google itself.]
You can read more about INSPIRE through at the CERN Courier, interactions.org, Symmetry Breaking, a talk to the DOE High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, and through some talks at the HEP Information Resource Summit. At that last link check out Travis Brooks’ demonstration of INSPIRE, or better yet, try out the alpha version yourself.