Technology Insights on Improving Access to Drexel Research
May 6, 2021
In 2019, the University—led by the Drexel University Libraries—joined technology vendor Ex Libris to finalize the Esploro research services platform through participation in its Early Adopter program. Esploro will help streamline the capture, management, and dissemination of research output and data. As an extension of the Libraries’ evolving information management system, it will enable integrated discovery to showcase all Drexel research assets, including publications, data sets, and creative works.
Development of Esploro continues. Through an interview with Heather Cai, Manager for Library Integrated Technology Systems, we gain some technology insights on progress made as part of the Libraries’ integrated technology system.
Q: We last spoke in December 2019 about the Libraries’ partnership with Ex Libris to explore the Esploro research services platform, shortly after the Libraries joined the Esploro Early Adopter Program. How does this platform fit within what you have envisioned as the Libraries’ integrated technology systems to improve access to Drexel Research?
Drexel has been dealing with the question of how to effectively manage its research assets for years. iDEA, the University’s existing repository, is the system we have been using to manage both digital and research assets, but we are limited in what we can do to integrate it with existing library systems.
Esploro, which is an Esperanto word meaning “research” or “exploration,” makes Drexel research discoverable through a single, aggregated search interface. With Esploro, members of the Drexel community will be able to use DragonSearch, the Libraries’ online discovery search tool, to identify and locate University-affiliated research outputs as well as access books, articles and licensed databases instead of having to go to iDEA. Providing a single, unified system improves the user experience and increases research outcomes.
Esploro also has a researcher-facing interface, which we are still working to develop for Drexel. Once launched, Drexel researchers will be able to submit their research outputs and create and update researcher profiles directly through this portal. They can be a user and a contributor to Esploro simultaneously.
Q: We have been particularly interested in the system’s “smart harvesting” feature. Can you briefly tell us what that is and how it will improve workflows to build a source of authoritative information about Drexel’s research output?
Esploro’s usefulness depends on how much information is included in the system—the more content, the more useful it is. However, Esploro currently does not automatically find and add an institution’s research assets to the system. This is a big challenge since research assets are typically scattered across many different repositories. So how do we get Drexel’s research assets into Esploro so they can be easily discoverable? Smart harvesting will help automate that process.
Smart harvesting reduces manual staff effort by automating the process of capturing and importing information about research assets already stored in external sources, such as Ex Libris Central Discovery Index, disciplinary repositories, and government agency repositories. It harvests information about Drexel-affiliated research assets that match the set criteria for unique author ID, author name, institutional affiliation, or article title. The smart harvesting feature is still under development, and Ex Libris plans to roll out this functionality sometime this summer.
Q: What connection does the Esploro platform have to iDEA, the University’s institutional repository?
Esploro is replacing iDEA as the University’s repository for storing Drexel-generated electronic theses and dissertations and other research assets. That means instead of searching in iDEA, users simply use DragonSearch to discover Drexel-generated research assets. iDEA also contains the University’s digitized archival materials from the University Archives, and we are working to migrate that content to Alma Digital, which can be integrated with DragonSearch as well.
Q: When we launch Esploro, not all its features will be fully functioning. At that point, what has been the most interesting challenge for you of adopting this innovative platform into our technology infrastructure?
We encountered several big challenges during the implementation process. For example, what criteria should be used to identify Drexel researchers? We initially tried to include as many potential researcher groups as possible, such as alumni. However, there is a limit to number of researchers in Esploro. Ultimately, we decided to keep only seven distinct researcher groups.
Going forward, integrating Esploro with external systems like ORCID and campus systems, such as the Office of Research & Innovation’s new research administration systems, will become our priority. It is an effort that goes beyond the Libraries and requires campus-wide collaborations. We strive to utilize Esploro as a system that contains rich research information and reflects and represents Drexel research outputs to the fullest, while creating a system that is easy to use by all our users.