In 10 years, the FAPESP Virtual Library has gone from a database to an information system with analytical tools
A series of lectures and round table discussions scheduled for August 21, 2015 will celebrate 10 years of activity by FAPESP’s Virtual Library (BV). A system providing information on scholarships, grants and researchers funded by the Foundation, available to the public the Internet in Portuguese and English, the BV had nearly 4.2 million visitors in 2014, a number three times higher than that reported in 2011. Launched in 2005 with references pertaining to 4,000 documents from scientific and academic literature arising from projects funded by the Foundation, such as papers, theses, book chapters and books, the BV has expanded in scope and begun to provide information about support for research in the state of São Paulo. It currently boasts more than 200,000 records, including summaries in Portuguese and English of such things as regular grants, scholarships and Foundation programs dating back to 1992. In addition to increasing its content, the library has spread-out into several pages of data arranged according to particular pieces of information, such as the description of projects and grants in each sub-field of the 76 disciplines or in each of the nearly 1,500 research institutions that operate in São Paulo. The library has also added tools that allow users to see data included as graphics and maps, and assemble information easily. “The library stopped being just a database with articles and projects. Now it features analytical tools with countless applications,” says Roberto M. Cesar Jr., a professor at the USP Institute of Mathematics and Statistics and deputy coordinator of the FAPESP Area Panel on Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering. In 2010, he was a member of a group that helped reshape the BV, proposing the creation of external links and new tools.
The growing number of searches on the Virtual Library is directly related to the recently created pages. Nearly half of the 4.2 million searches in 2014 were directed towards the profiles of researchers funded by the Foundation, a feature that was not introduced until 2013. “These profiles now allow users to see a brief, well-organized history of the link between the researcher and FAPESP,” notes Rosaly Favero Krzyzanowski, coordinator of the Virtual Library since its creation. This includes a list of current and completed research grants and scholarships, the names of the most frequent collaborators, the descriptions and graph of the evolution of scientific publications that have resulted from the Foundation’s funding, as well as the citations that each article may have received in indexed publications on the Web of Science (WoS) database. There are also links to researcher CVs and to international profiles such as ResearcherID, which are part of the Thomson Reuters Web of Science database, and MyCitations, by Google Scholar. The search for scientific articles linked to scholarships and research grants is performed by search robots that automatically retrieve references to these papers from the Web of Science and the SciELO library. Since 2013, FAPESP-funded researchers, besides having to regularly mention the Foundation, have had to include the case number that refers to the research project in any scientific publication that comes out of the scholarship or grant funded. If the project number is not mentioned, the scientific paper cannot be automatically indexed with the record of the respective project, indexed in the BV, and consequently, it does not get added to the researcher’s page. “This way, the Virtual Library is able to keep the information about each funding award updated,” says Favero.
Eny Goloni Bertollo, a professor in the Molecular Biology Department of the São José do Rio Preto School of Medicine (FAMERP), discovered that the list of articles that she wrote was not up to date in her researcher profile page and she asked the BV for help. What happened was that although she had mentioned FAPESP in the acknowledgements of all her papers, she had not included the case number. “I didn’t realize that this made any difference,” said Bertollo. The researcher recently sent the BV an updated list of articles, which are gradually being included after verifying the link with the funding received. According to the professor, keeping her profile updated on the BV is an important part of her work. “A profile like this can show, simply and clearly, whether researchers have an active and productive relationship with funding agencies, whether they are advising students and whether they have recently been involved in collaborative research efforts. It also shows which journals researchers are being published in and who is citing their papers. This is valuable information, for example, when we submit new projects to funding agencies or when we want to find collaborators who work on specific issues,” she says.
In 2014, just over 5% of BV visits linked to English content. They consisted of more than 216,000 visits, especially those requesting researcher profiles, with 86,000 visitors.
According to Rosaly Favero, the adoption of strategies based on free software to increase the visibility of information on the web and of a system of data recovery that facilitates searches has also played a role in increasing the number of visits. There is a wide range of interest in the information offered by the library. The team of five librarians and two analysts who work on the BV usually receive emails, for example, from people who discover references to research projects about diseases; either they or their family members are victims of these disorders and are seeking to contact the researchers who were responsible. It is also quite common for students and researchers in Brazil and abroad to ask for bibliographical information about issues on which the researchers are working. “We evaluate all these requests and tell people that FAPESP recommends contacting the researcher directly, through the email address we provide,” says Thais Fernandes de Morais, head librarian at the Center for S&T Documentation and Information (CDI) where the BV’s project is being carried out.
Within FAPESP, the library’s analytical tools have become more valuable. “They afford us a broader understanding of what is going on with FAPESP-funded research,” says Roberto M. Cesar Jr. By way of example, he mentions participation by Foundation representatives in international events such as the Nature Jobs Fair, at which FAPESP tries to attract post-doctoral fellows and young researchers to work at institutions in Brazil. “Using BV tools, it’s possible to quickly assemble a slide show on specific issues, citing projects approved and current scholarships.” Maps allow visualization of the geographic distribution of FAPESP funding throughout the state of São Paulo and even outside Brazil, and graphics show the Foundation’s funding history for each issue or project. Another utility is visible when the Foundation signs new agreements with international institutions. “It’s possible to quickly find researchers from São Paulo institutions who have already had a relationship with that foreign institution. They are the first people who need to receive information about the agreement. Similarly, researchers dedicated to specific topics can be identified to take part in FAPESP Week symposia, which seek to encourage international collaborations and workshops on programs such as bioenergy research (Bioen) or biodiversity (Biota),” he says.
The history of the Virtual Library can be broken down into two phases. The first, from 2005 to 2009, emphasized the cataloguing of scientific papers and academic literature linked to FAPESP-funded projects. In the early 2000s, the then-CEO of the FAPESP Executive Board (CTA), Francisco Romeu Landi (1933-2004), was a member of a committee created by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) that proposed a National Policy of Preservation of Science and Technology Memory, and underscored the importance of making Brazil’s scientific production more visible . To face the challenge, FAPESP established its Center for S&T Documentation and Information (CDi) in 2003 where the Virtual Library was implemented in 2005. “Establishing the BV was the outcome of concern over communicating the knowledge generated by FAPESP-funded projects,” says Favero. At the time, researchers and grantees supported by FAPESP were invited to report their scientific production. This effort resulted in the submission of 6,000 paper forms, which gave rise to the BV’s initial database with 4,000 references that when possible, provided a direct link to the full texts of scientific papers, theses, book chapters and books.
From 2009 to 2010, the library was expanded to offer information about FAPESP-funded research grants and scholarships instead of just being limited to registering the scientific literature associated with them. “One of our objectives was to inform the public about the kinds of funding awarded,” Favero recalls. Standardized project funding information such as abstracts, principal investigators and home research institutions were published on the BV website, which currently stands at 200,000 records. Even now, the library team is digitizing old project abstracts and plans to offer references to projects and grants awarded between 1962, when FAPESP was founded, and 1991, materials presently found only in paper form.
More recently, the BV has embarked on the inclusion of pages with added value, in other words, pages with complementary information that is important for lending visibility to the study, such as researcher profiles and institutional web pages. “Universities are asking the BV to share the data it has amassed on their projects. We’ve already done this with Unicamp and we’re talking to USP and Unesp about it,” says Rosaly Favero. Soon there will be a page with theses and dissertations by Foundation grant recipients, organizing nearly 18,000 references to this academic production, with links to their full texts, when they can be found in the digital libraries of theses and dissertations at USP, Unesp and Unicamp.
The search result for scientific papers has also been fine-tuned, comprising a page of publications resulting from research projects that reports the citation index of each paper on the Web of Science database, in addition to linking to the full text, when available. The library is also promoting an exchange with other academic and research information systems. In 2014, FAPESP began contributing to the International Alzheimer’s Disease Research Portfolio, under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association in the United States, updating records about the 259 projects funded by the Foundation that deal with Alzheimer’s disease.