IEEE recently unveiled an online tool for browsing through its collection of content and events. The beta release of IEEE Technology Navigator, unlike search engines such as Google and Bing, is specifically designed for browsing through IEEE's technical resources such as conferences, publications, standards, and published articles. Users type in words or phrases in which they are interested and these key terms, known as tags, are mapped to IEEE's 38 societies and various industry sectors, as well as to the IEEE Xplore digital library. Users are then presented with relevant publications, conferences, published standards and those in development, citations, and abstracts of individual articles.
"The ability to find and evaluate information is especially important for users of databases and digital libraries, but the Web, of course, leaves them fending for themselves, without the help of librarians and other information specialists," says IEEE treasurer Hal Flescher. Flescher initiated the development of the service during his term as 2008 Technical Activities vice president-elect. "For non-experts, using Google or Bing is even more challenging. For an effective search, a person must know the vocabulary and basic contextual information of the topic. This can also be true for engineers searching for information outside their area of expertise."
IEEE Technology Navigator (TechNav) is designed for anyone who would benefit from browsing and filtering the overwhelming number of resources available from IEEE. The new tool can see relationships among search terms that correspond to the key terms from the IEEE thesaurus, which contains more than 9000 descriptive engineering, technical, and scientific terms as well as IEEE-specific society terms, in addition to the tags that have been specifically developed for TechNav. All the tags, including key terms from the IEEE Xplore digital library, are associated with related tags that provides users with a better understanding of the context for identifying desired content.
Browsing is more effective thanks to a link from TechNav to IEEE Xplore—which provides users with some idea of the scope of content associated with any given term. That can then lead users to the IEEE organizations involved, such as its societies, IEEE Member and Geographic Activities, IEEE Educational Activities, IEEE-USA, and the IEEE Standards Association.
TechNav's development was driven by a studies in 2009 and 2010 of how IEEE members and customers use the main IEEE site. Based on 300 survey responses, it found that of IEEE websites visited at least once per month, IEEE Xplore had the most visitors, according to 47 percent of respondents. IEEE Spectrum and the main site each scored 41 percent. Next were IEEE society websites, with 30 percent, followed by IEEE Standards and region and section sites, with 16 percent each.
The findings also showed a need for better search tools: 40 percent of respondents reported trouble finding what they needed, and 17 percent said the IEEE site was difficult to navigate.
Users of TechNav will be able to provide feedback on the service from a link on the site.