Looking to better understand what information their customers needed to help them define their research goals and strategy, the IET team embarked on an effort to directly engage with their customer base. A key learning from this outreach effort was that their customers needed to have greater insight into global and local trends in research output. They also learned that their customers wanted to better understand their collaborations and more quickly and easily identify candidates for their recruiting efforts. In addition, they discovered their university customers wanted to know what they had published over the years, and in which areas as well as how they ranked in comparison with other universities in terms of output by subject.
Based on this input and feedback, the Inspec team started to develop a visually intuitive application that would show organizational output, author collaborations and global, regional, and national trends in engineering. They soon discovered that a key requirement of creating such a tool was the accurate and consistent presentation of organizations and their affiliations. However, the IET also realized that much of the abstract and affiliation data feeding into Inspec was unstructured and messy.