Enhancing accessibility and efficiency in research

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Kelly Snell

Kelly Snell (left) explains why CABI saw an opportunity to better serve users by creating its own platform

Researchers are the driving force behind scientific progress and innovation, yet it is no secret that they face a multitude of challenges, and responsibilities. Balancing complex studies, authoring papers, and teaching can spread their time thinly, often affecting productivity. 

Recognising these challenges, we at CABI saw an opportunity to better serve our users. CABI is an international non-profit organisation that uses scientific expertise and information to address global agricultural and environmental issues. Unlike other publishers, CABI is guided by 48 member countries and is on the ground with scientists, putting us in a unique position to address these issues directly. Our publishing surpluses are reinvested into projects and programmes around the world, like PlantwisePlus, which supports farmers in increasing their yield and reducing their losses. While our resources are extensively used by academia, they also serve as valuable tools for policy makers, practitioners, governments, and corporations. Tools, such as Pest Risk Analysis (PRA), are widely used for their practical applications. 

In 2022, we launched an ambitious project to redefine how our users interact with our content. Our vision was to create a unified hub for our life sciences content on our new platform, CABI Digital Library, to support all of our users around the world. Hosted on Atypon’s award-winning Literatum platform, CABI Digital Library now houses over 15 million abstract records, books, case studies, dynamically updated datasheets and research articles. This marked the first-ever collaboration between Atypon and a publisher to host so many different content types across one platform, a significant milestone. 

CABI Digital Library is now a powerful tool that centralises our world-leading databases, including CAB Abstracts and Global Health, books, journals, case studies, and the highly popular CABI Compendium, all in one digital space.

The initiative's success is evident. Since the launch of CABI Digital Library in July 2022, usage across resources has doubled and we are on track to reach our goal of 15 million users this year. With our platform's swift results retrieval across both mobile and desktop devices, researchers are now able to conduct comparisons and review content more efficiently than ever before. Previously, our content was spread across 24 different sites and four platforms, which could make finding and comparing information a complex task. Now, we have consolidated all of our resources into one platform. This streamlines the process, making it easier for our users to undertake a comprehensive search. We remain dedicated to removing barriers and improving access to research for our users. 

Transforming research: the impact of CABI Digital Library  

In the pursuit of making knowledge more discoverable, we have centred our efforts on developing CABI Digital Library with our users' needs at its core. Over a period of two years, we sought and incorporated feedback from our users. Their insights have been invaluable in not only ensuring that we meet their needs but also in shaping the platform's key features. 

Heather Moberly, The Pennsylvania State University, said: “Searching CAB Abstracts using the new CABI Digital Library Platform is a powerful improvement. It shows that CABI listened to input from customers to both ​improve the search function and provide explanations about the defaults and options. It is intuitive for the general searcher. Advanced searchers will find the increased transparency helpful for refining searches and documenting methodology for evidence syntheses.” 

The key functionalities of CABI Digital Library, each carefully crafted to improve and enhance the research process, underscore the value and benefits that the platform offers. 

With just a simple search, users now have access to the most relevant and up-to-date content across the platform, right at their fingertips. The platform's advanced search capabilities are further enhanced with features like an extensive character search limit (64,000) and bulk exports, facilitating refined and targeted results for more efficient analysis and comparison. Autofill and query suggestions further ensure that users consistently find search results tailored to their needs. The addition of new search facets, including grey literature and evidence-based research, not only strengthens the platform's ability to deliver comprehensive and targeted search results, but also empowers users to easily locate unique materials that can be challenging to find elsewhere. Furthermore, the evidence-based research facet provides researchers and practitioners with a robust foundation for their conclusions and decisions. 

Ensuring the site was fully mobile responsive was a priority, as our tools and resources are accessed globally, including in remote locations where mobile access is crucial. This allows our vast and diverse user base to engage with our content seamlessly, regardless of their location or device, truly embodying our mission to make scientific research accessible to all.

Recognising the importance of metrics tracking for our institutional stakeholders, we've ensured easy access to COUNTER 5 usage reports and MARC records. These resources are available via a sophisticated, yet user-friendly dashboard, which supports enhanced productivity and ensures seamless interactions.  

Reflecting on the launch, CABI’s Publishing and Operations Director, Damian Bird explained: “Our move to CABI Digital Library underpins our mission to support users worldwide in applying science to real-world problems. Our goal is to ensure our content is accessible to those who need it the most. This is not only to aid academic researchers and practitioners, but also to equip end users around the world with resources and knowledge. By doing so, we aim to enhance their capabilities and make a significant impact on improving global agricultural practices. Examples include CABI’s support of the advancement of many of the SDG goals, and worldwide programmes such as PlantwisePlus – which assists farmers in reducing crop loss.” 

Embracing the future with CABI Digital Library  

CABI Digital Library is more than just a platform; it is a catalyst for change and growth within the research community. We are grateful for the support and feedback from our users, which has been instrumental in shaping the platform and we remain committed to continuously improving and evolving to meet the changing needs of our users. By fostering efficiency, accessibility, and high-quality content, CABI Digital Library will continue to empower researchers, practitioners, and policy makers around the world, contributing to a future where quality knowledge is not a luxury but a readily available resource. Our vision does not stop at simply meeting our users’ needs. We are committed to working to anticipate future demands and challenges, ensuring CABI Digital Library remains an enduring, valuable resource for the global research community.  

For more information on the enhancements and platform updates of CABI Digital Library, please visit our dedicated resource. 

Kelly Snell is Senior Marketing Manager at CABI