Physicists get INSPIREd

Particle physicists thrive on information. They first create information by performing experiments or elaborating theoretical conjectures and then they share it through publications and various web tools. The INSPIRE service, just released, will bring state of the art information retrieval to the fingertips of researchers.


Keeping track of the information shared within the particle physics community has long been the task of libraries at the larger labs, such as CERN, DESY, Fermilab and SLAC, as well as the focus of indispensible services like arXiv and those of the Particle Data Group. In 2007, many providers of information in the field came together for a summit at SLAC to see how physics information resources could be enhanced, and the INSPIRE project emerged from that meeting.

The vision behind INSPIRE was built by a survey launched by the four labs to evaluate the real needs of the community. INSPIRE responds to these directives from the community by combining the most successful aspects of SPIRES (a joint project of DESY, Fermilab and SLAC) with the modern technology of Invenio (the CERN open source digital library software). However, INSPIRE goes further than its venerable predecessors. For example, in searching for a paper, it will not only fully understand SPIRES as search syntax, but will also support free-text searches in Google.

INSPIRE is built on the Invenio software developed at CERN, which currently manages about a million records. This collaborative tool for managing large digital libraries is already inspiring many other institutes around the world. In particular, the Astrophysics Data System – the digital library run by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for NASA – has recently chosen Invenio as the new technology to manage its collection.

Particle physicists were once the beneficiaries of world leading information management. Now INSPIRE, anchored by the Invenio software, aims once again to give the community a world-class solution to its information needs. The future is rich with possibilities, from interactive pdf documents to exciting new opportunities for mining this wealth of bibliographic data, enabling sophisticated analyses of citations and other information. The conclusion is easy: if you are a physicist, just let yourself be INSPIREd!


The full version of this article is published in the April issue of the CERN Courier.

by CERN Bulletin