March 16, 2018

JSTOR, DataLab Launch Sustainability Site, Collaborate on Tools for Interdisciplinary Researchers

JSTOR LabsJSTOR Sustainability Beta site, in partnership with Eigenfactor project co-founder Dr. Jevin West and the University of Washington’s DataLab, have launched JSTOR Sustainability, a new website powered by Eigenfactor Article Influence scores and a 1,500 term semantic index created by JSTOR. Currently in beta, the new website is the product of JSTOR and DataLab’s collaborative effort to help scholars in interdisciplinary fields understand and navigate literature outside of their core areas of expertise.

“What we are trying to do with this was find a way to make our content be greater than the sum of its parts—find ways to connect the content, and do so in a multi-disciplinary field where it’s even more critical and vital and hard to do,” Alex Humphreys, director of JSTOR Labs, told LJ.

Whereas traditional metrics, such as Impact Factor, measure the average number of citations that a journal receives within a recent timeframe, Eigenfactor metrics rank the importance of a journal with an algorithm that uses five years of cross citation data, omitting self-citations; normalizing scores between large, influential journals that publish thousands of articles per year and smaller influential journals; and weighting citations from highly ranked journals more heavily than those from less influential journals, among other calculations.

The project recently developed a new recommendation engine, Eigenfactor Recommends, that identifies foundational papers within a field, drawing upon more than 40 million papers and more than 200 million citations from databases including Microsoft Academic Search, PubMed, JSTOR, arXiv, and others. The new JSTOR Sustainability site uses the Eigenfactor Recommends API to generate topic pages on key subjects in sustainability studies, such as environmental law, biodiversity, and applied ecology. These topic pages include a brief subject overview, lists of the top journals and authors in the field, background reading recommendations, and unique features such as an interactive timeline of articles that have been most influential for a topic.

“The feedback we received on the topic pages, and on the Influential Articles in particular, was really positive,” Humphreys said in JSTOR’s press announcement about the collaboration. “I think part of the reason it resonated with researchers is because [the selected articles and timelines] help tell the story of a particular subject—you can see the progression of important discoveries over time, which is key when you’re delving into a new or unfamiliar research topic.”

Humphreys added that the site has potential applications not only for scholars conducting interdisciplinary research, but for students as well. “The idea for the topic pages and the Influential Articles is that whenever you need to introduce yourself to a topic, whether it’s established researchers diving into a topic that’s new to them for whatever reason, or grad students or upper-level undergrads…both are real use cases,” he told LJ. “We do a lot of user testing throughout [our development process] and one researcher said ‘I could absolutely see sharing this with my class, as a way to say: here’s all of the stuff that we’re doing now, but this is what it came from, this is the history that you need to understand.'”

The collaboration with DataLab, and the resulting sustainability site, is one of several ongoing projects at JSTOR Labs. This year alone, the group launched JSTOR Snap, an application that enables scholars to initiate a search of JSTOR articles by using a smartphone to take a picture of any page of text; and “Livingstone’s Zambezi Expedition” a beta site based on 19th century explorer David Livingstone’s African expedition along the Zambezi and Shire Rivers from 1858 to 1864. The group also released a major update to “Understanding Shakespeare,” a site launched in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library last October, that allows researchers to click on lines in any Shakespeare play to discover JSTOR articles referencing those lines.

Meanwhile, the JSTOR Sustainability site concept will likely be revisited for other topics, Humphreys said. “The various tools that we’re using here, the topic pages and other things, can be replicated in other multi-disciplinary fields,” he said. “We’ve got a couple, I don’t want to say ‘cued up,’ but they’re knocking at the gates.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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  1. Yes! Finally someone writes about Tools.

  2. Thank you.