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12 October 2017

Users at the core of new Cambridge platform

At last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the new Cambridge Core platform for academic books and journals was showcased to a packed Professional & Scientific Information stage. This year, Jenny Mathias and Vicky Drummond from Cambridge University Press returned to the fair to update the audience on developments in the year since the launch. 

The response from both users and critics has been very positive indeed: Cambridge Core has been shortlisted for three awards in its first year. The statistics are impressive too: usage is up 25%, and registrations 24%; the 138,000 articles published on the platform have been downloaded 21 million times, with 62 million page views. The figures from alternative citation tracker Altmetric – which measures the impact articles have through mainstream media, blogs, social media, and other non-traditional routes – have also been striking: up 36%.

As part of the Agile development methodology used to build Cambridge Core, the decision was taken to launch what’s known as a ‘Minimum Viable Product’, a version containing the core functionality that users need, but which can then be expanded and extended at regular intervals. Jenny and Vicky shared some information on one new feature that will shortly be added to the site: full-text search. The procedures involved in adding this feature show how the development of Core has placed users at the heart of the development process. 

First, the request for full-text search was validated by checking with Cambridge’s 300-strong panel of researchers. This also revealed that though academics did want the feature, they didn’t want it globally, but only within subject areas: they wanted to narrow down their search to particular subjects before searching the full text of books and articles. With this need in mind, the functionality was developed, and will be released in the next few months.

Of course, researchers aren’t the only people who use Cambridge Core, and Jenny and Vicky shared their experiences of building in the needs of the other key user groups: librarians, authors, and publishing partners. A request from librarians for a larger institutional logo on the site turned out to be merely a symptom of a more fundamental need, discovered through careful follow-up questions: greater visibility for the institution providing researchers with access to the books and articles.

The platform will continue to develop in future: Cambridge is already exploring the possibilities of extending it to include medical and textbook content. As ever, users will be placed at the centre of the process, with interviews and diary studies planned.

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