Wednesday, 6 August 2014

ALPSP Awards Spotlight on... Edifix, a cloud based bibliographic references service

This is the latest in a series of posts profiling the finalists of the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing, sponsored by Publishing Technology. We asked Bruce Rosenblum, CEO of Inera, to tell us more about Edifix,  a cloud-based service for bibliographic references.

ALPSP: Tell us a bit about your company

BR: Inera was founded in 1992 as a consulting company specializing in applications of SGML and XML. Over the past twenty years, we've built a seasoned team of publishing and software professionals who provide a wide range of innovative and practical solutions for the publishing industry.

We developed and license eXtyles, a suite of Word-based editorial and XML tools, and now we’ve launched Edifix, our new online bibliographic reference solution. eXtyles and Edifix allow their users to automate the most time-consuming aspects of document publication, and customers around the world rely on these software solutions to drive modern electronic and print publication workflows.

Beyond our software development activities, we actively engage in standards development. I was a founding member of the NLM/JATS/BITS DTD working groups and continue to be involved in the development of those DTDs. We also participate in cross-publisher initiatives (CrossRef) and board membership in key organizations (NISO).

ALPSP: What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?

BR: Edifix, the first product of its kind to make automated parsing and correction of bibliographic references available as a cloud-based service, is under consideration for the Innovation in Publishing Award.

ALPSP: Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it

BR: The Edifix interface is a simple web form into which users can paste plain-text bibliographic references from Word or other programs. Depending on the settings chosen by the user, Edifix quickly returns the same reference list copyedited to a preferred style (such as AMA, APA, Chicago, or MLA) and linked to PubMed and CrossRef. In addition to providing these links, which enable the user to quickly access the cited material, Edifix can correct missing or erroneous reference data. The quality improvement is therefore twofold: both the style and the accuracy of each reference is addressed. After Edifix processing, the user can move the corrected references back into Word or save them to RIS format for easy import into reference management systems. For publishers and other organizations that require granular and accurate reference XML, Edifix also offers the option to save the references to JATS (NLM) or PubMed XML, and for such applications it can be called directly via a programmable API.

Edifix shows the Inera team at its best. The project idea arose from a company retreat in 2012, proposed by members of the Inera staff who had previously worked as editors. The proposal, wholeheartedly backed by the management team, was quickly put into action by our small but nimble development team. Over the past 20 months, every member of Inera has been involved in this project, whether in design, development, testing, or sales and marketing, and additional improvements were suggested by beta testers. However, long before we started on Edifix as a cloud product, Inera had already invested more than 30 person-years in the development of the bibliographic reference-processing engine, which is a key feature of eXtyles.

ALPSP: Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?

BR: There are a number of tools on the market for managing bibliographic references; these tools are used primarily by researchers for maintaining reference databases and creating reference lists. Edifix, however, is not a reference manager. Reference managers require structured or fielded reference elements, which for plain-text references – the kind you find in a typical manuscript – involves a lot of cutting, pasting, and re-keying of reference data. 

The critical innovation Edifix brings to the bibliographic reference problem is its parsing engine – that is, its sophisticated ability to automatically identify the elements of plain-text references. This ability to accurately burst a reference into its parts and then put it back together enables all of the advanced Edifix services, from copyediting to data correction to structured output (including an output format that will let you import into a reference manager like EndNote without all of that manual labor).

In particular, our unique parsing engine enables us to successfully address the challenge of linking and correcting references with data from online sources. When the original reference contains errors (not an uncommon occurrence), you need to ensure that further steps correct rather than exacerbate those errors. To do so, Inera invented special fuzzy-matching and data-scrubbing technologies to link references without false-positive errors and then intelligently merge the data from PubMed and CrossRef with the original reference. 

These technologies enable Edifix to link and correct references that otherwise may not link at all. By moving Inera’s groundbreaking reference parsing, editing, and validation technology into the cloud, Edifix makes extremely high levels of accuracy affordable to anyone who works with bibliographic references, from individual researchers and editors to publishers and service providers. 

ALPSP: What are you plans for the future?

BR: We constantly work to improve the user experience of Edifix. Some of the near-term improvements include:

  • The integration of additional editorial styles via Citation Style Language
  • Addition of advanced features such as duplicate reference checking, alphabetical reference list sorting, and URL validation
  • The ability for a group administrator to manage a team of users in a single organization.

Beyond improvements to our software products, our future plans include long-term strategic developments to ensure that our solutions remain ahead of the curve in the rapidly changing world of publishing. It’s an extremely exciting time to be working in this industry, and we’re thrilled to be able to provide products that genuinely improve the quality of, and people’s access to, the scholarly record.

The winners will be announced at the ALPSP International Conference. Book by Friday 8 August to avoid the late registration fee.

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