News from the Nuclear Information Section
International Nuclear Information System (INIS), IAEA Library & SDSG

No. 16, August 2014


INIS partners with Google Scholar

Google ScholarWhen it comes to delivering information and knowledge, using the right channels can make a big difference, especially when targeting a specialized audience. For this purpose, since 2011, INIS has provided the nuclear community with an efficient gateway to its collection of more than 3.6 million bibliographic records: the INIS Collection Search (ICS) engine.

While improving the efficiency of a system can generally be narrowed down to optimizing or increasing the resources vested in it, such as people, machines and money, the effectiveness of a system in reaching its target, especially on the World Wide Web, might prove to be more elusive. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which substantially increases the visibility of contents, plays a key role in improving the effectiveness of information delivery.

In this light, the partnership between INIS and Google Scholar was born. Google Scholar remains the undisputed leader in providing access to recorded scholarly literature, capable of indexing 98 to 100 percent of academic journals. Partnering with Google Scholar benefits not only the visibility and accessibility of the INIS Collection Search (ICS), but the nuclear community as a whole.

The main challenges encountered in integrating INIS records with Google Scholar were ensuring performance, functionality and security. In terms of security, engineers had to consider major constraints in fully preserving the confidentiality of contents, as not all of the records, due to stringent limitations, can be publicly accessible as full-text documents. SEO changes to the INIS Collection Search had to maintain the ability to monitor user traffic flows and habits, with the aid of Google Analytics. Lastly, it was important to guarantee that the system could  properly handle the expected increase in user traffic and workload, once the changes were put into effect.

A first step in integrating with Google Scholar was to guarantee the security of data, collaborating closely with the Division of Information Technology (MTIT) on adequate rules and access restrictions. This was initiated to prevent web crawlers and bots from autonomously indexing and hot-linking information stored on the public INIS web servers, the availability of which might be subject to change over the years, due to copyright or other legal restrictions. Access rules were put in force that would re-route all direct access to documents by external users, or through searches performed in Google services, to the relevant abstracts generated by the ICS. Next, a custom application, developed by the Systems Development and Support Group (SDSG) software engineers, to generate updated sitemaps of the collection contents, guaranteed the consistency and accuracy of the data presented on Google Scholar, together with an additional layer of control on the Google indexing process.

Due to the lack of historical data or analogy models to estimate the impact of increased user traffic, the project was divided into two phases, to maintain the highest level of information accessibility, while collecting statistical information and performing the required system upgrades. The first phase carried out by SDSG, in collaboration with Google Scholar’s partner management, limited the exchange of data in the INIS Collection to full-text documents, excluding their respective bibliographic records. The results were staggering, proving right the intuition of SDSG engineers to use only a portion of the Collection to assess the impact of traffic on the IT infrastructure. In fact, in December 2013, its first week of operation, the statistics showed an increase of +319% in page views, +411% in unique searches, +761% in visits and +1169% in unique visitors, compared to November of the previous year.

In the second phase, several SEO changes were performed in the ICS abstract pages of the entire INIS Collection, improving the ability of the ICS to generate the appropriate metadata interface to Google Scholar and Google Analytics, to facilitate indexing and guarantee the reliable collection of user statistical data. By the end of June 2014, with all the necessary changes put into effect, the INIS Collection Search Engine could boast an impressive +7.671.68% increase in unique users, a +3.294.89% increase in sessions and a +734.22% increase in page views compared to the same period of the previous year,. Numbers so big, that the INIS Collection became one of the most popular resources on the entire IAEA Web.

Since its inception in 1970, INIS has relentlessly pursued its mission to disseminate knowledge to the public on the peaceful applications of nuclear science. The established partnership with Google underlines the tradition of INIS to embrace the newest technologies to continuously improve its services, also laying a strong foundation for future collaboration with the Mountain View Company.

Riccardo Rubini
System Engineer, SDSG