German scientists aggregate worldwide informatics knowledge

Share this on social media:

Topic tags: 

German information specialists have teamed up to develop a new portal that provides links to informatics research worldwide, as Ute Rusnak of FIZ Karlsruhe explains

Informatics is playing an increasingly important role in scientific research. It helps to understand, organise and mine information and underpins most technological breakthroughs. But, as with any new and growing field, there is a massive body of research in this subject that itself needs to be organised and accessed. This is a challenge that the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) decided to tackle by funding some recent projects in this area. The first, FIS-I (FachInformationsSystem Informatik), had the main objective of making international scientific knowledge in informatics easily available for research and education in Germany.

The result was a specialised internet portal called, jointly developed by FIZ Karlsruhe and the Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI), represented by the Institute of Applied Informatics and Formal Description Methods (AIFB) of the University of Karlsruhe. This portal provides access to worldwide knowledge in informatics and uses brand new semantic tools to help shorten the search process. For example, these tools allow publications to be allocated to a working context that has been predefined by the user. These tools arose from work on a second government-funded project called SemIPort (semantic methods and tools for information portals). In this project, experts from various scientific research institutes developed semantic tools for information research and the administration of personal information retrieved from digital sources.

Information galore... aggregates the contents of four separate databases

When went online at the beginning of 2006, it had an initial data stock of two million reference data drawn from evaluated sources. But this was not the end of the story: in July 2006 FIZ Karlsruhe also released an English version of the informatics portal.

Portal has databases at its heart

The core part of both the German and English versions of the portal is a bibliographic reference system for publications. It is based on four well-established professional reference databases that have already been existing side by side for several years: CompuScience (provided by FIZ Karlsruhe), DBLP (Computer Science Bibliography, offered by the University of Trier), LEABiB (a bibliographical database produced by the chair for efficient algorithms of the TU Munich), and CCSB (The Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies of the University of Karlsruhe). aggregates the contents of these databases. The references partly overlap with its source databases offered by the universities as web services. The content also overlaps with that of databases provided by other commercial information producers, but is the only system integrating all these sources.

The new information portal for inf ormatics is continuously updated. In collaboration with international partners, FIZ Karlsruhe and the universities compile scientific literature from primary sources and add it to the central database. In addition, automated data collecting programs (webcrawlers) continuously search the web for new content to be included into The project partner GI makes available all volumes of the proceedings series Lecture Notes in Informatics (LNI), which are older than one year, and further articles from journals published by the GI.

So how are all these sources drawn together in a user-friendly way? ‘One of the most challenging problems was to find a common format that allows one to exchange the different bibliographical data formats of the source databases,' commented Agnes Koschmider of AIFB, the partner institute in this project. The solution was to standardise the data in the DXF2 format. Unlike many other portals, does not simply link to various heterogeneous data sets but offers information from different sources consolidated in one central reference database that can be searched in a homogeneous format.

Professional retrieval and new semantic tools

There are various professional search aids available in Some of them are well-known tools already used with professional information systems. Others are brand new tools using semantic web technology, for example to allocate publications to a working context predefined by the user. According to Koschmider, the semantic tools should help shorten the search process, while at the same time increasing the quality of the search results.

For this purpose, users are provided with various functions and tools like the Digital Bibliographic Library (DBL) Browser, the Recommender and Document Manager System, the Query Refinement tool and the feature Similar Titles. The DBL Browser is an intuitively usable graphical tool which allows navigating within the database. It can be locally installed on a PC. With the Document Manager, users may administer locally-stored documents or URLs, add comments to them, and define relationships between them and group them together.

The modelled relationships between the documents (the so-called document context) can be saved in for further processing by the Recommender tool. The Recommender sorts search results in a predefined document context according to their relevance for the user. In other words, the tool compares and evaluates the content and sorts the results. Another semantic tool called Query Refinement helps refine and specify a search query by adding relevant terms. For example, it can improve the search for ‘business process' by also including ‘business process management' or ‘business process intelligence'. For each title the feature Similar Titles automatically produces a list of associated documents stored in the database. This gives users an idea of further publications that might be related to their search.

Free basic searches is offered at a two-step pricing model. The basic search is free of charge. Value-added services like professional retrieval, the use of the semantic tools and access to full text are offered at cost.

In the value-add area of the portal all kinds of search terms can be entered. In addition to the keywords that can be searched on in the free search, users can search on variables such as the names of researchers and authors, titles of publications or the names of universities, in an arbitrary combination. The hits obtained with either method - basic or value-added search - are identical.

Free of charge are pages on special informatics topics, and the use of the informatics lexicon made available by GI. users also have free access to publication lists of authors or institutions with summarised information on their publications. Since these publications, however, are unverified sources, they cannot be found by a query carried out via the search masks.

In the value-added area of, the publication titles in the results list are linked to the bibliographic database record. From there, further international sources of information can be accessed. Records in contain not only bibliographic information, but also abstracts and keywords. There are links to full text and to further information on the author. A click on the author's name generates a list of further publications of this author available in, with the latest publications listed on top. At the end of the list, the names of all co-authors are summarised and linked. This gives the user a pretty good overview of researchers working in the specified field, R&D successes and discussions related to his or her subject of interest.

Linking to full-text literature

Among its value-added services, also offers numerous links to external full-text supply systems, services from publishing houses, open-access servers and other resources. FIZ Karlsruhe's full text supply system FIZ AutoDoc can be used as part of Users' own library services can also be integrated via a special interface (open URL). Direct access to articles in GI's Lecture Notes in Informatics series is also given. The project partners also plan to make theses and dissertations in informatics directly accessible at a later date.

Further information