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Ex Libris Expands Learning and Research Division

Smart Libraries Newsletter [September 2018]


In a move that strengthens its position in the research services arena in research-oriented universities, Ex Libris has acquired Research Research Limited, or *Research, a company based in London, offering content and services related to research initiatives and funding opportunities. This move follows the shift of the RefWorks reference manager, the Pivot research opportunities resource, to Ex Libris in October 2017 and the launch of Leganto in 2015. These products are now managed under the Learning and Research division of Ex Libris, led by corporate Vice President Shlomi Kringel. The expanding efforts of the company in the broader higher educational arena can be seen as seeking opportunities beyond its well established stable of products and services focused on academic libraries.

Alma Powers through the Academic Library Market

The recent efforts of Ex Libris creating products and services in the broader academic environment can be seen as a natural extension of its success in the narrower academic library market. Alma has become well established as the leading product for academic libraries seeking new resource management systems. The momentum for libraries selecting Alma continues to increase. Growth opportunities for Ex Libris can be anticipated not only in ongoing sales of Alma, but also through exploiting new product categories within the academic enterprise.

Ex Libris has been especially successful among the top tier of academic libraries and consortia. OCLC represents competition in the library services platform category and has seen considerable success especially among mid-sized academic libraries. Many academic libraries remain loyal to their ILSs provided by SirsiDynix and Innovative Interfaces. A growing number of smaller academic libraries have opted for the open source Koha ILS, often using Coral as an electronic resource management component.

Alma, introduced in 2012, has been adopted by over 1,200 libraries. It has been selected by 54 out of the 125 members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). An additional 30 ARL members continue to use its Voyager or Aleph ILS. In recent months, major organizations selecting Alma include:

  • the Ontario Council of University Libraries and Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries (PASCAL), comprised of 51 libraries spanning public and private educational institutions in the state;
  • the California Community College Library Consortium, including the campus libraries affiliated with all 114 community colleges in California serving 2.1 million students;
  • 13 members of the Ontario Council of University Libraries, including 6 members of the ARL;
  • the libraries of the 61 campuses of the State University of New York;
  • Michigan Shared System Alliance of 7 academic libraries;
  • the National Library of Poland;
  • the University of Sydney; and
  • University of New Hampshire.

Continued Expansion Beyond Library-Specific Products

Products and services supporting the research agenda of universities leverages the domain expertise Ex Libris developed in the course of almost four decades of developing technology products for academic libraries. Ex Libris launched its Leganto resource list management application in 2015, and in August 2018, the company reported its selection by over 100 institutions, with 65 in production.

Pivot: Funding Opportunities Resource

ProQuest, the parent organization for Ex Libris, has a longstanding involvement in research support through its Pivot funding opportunities resource. Pivot traces its lineage to the Community of Science, a set of resources initially developed in 1988 at John Hopkins University, including COS Expertise (later Scholar Universe) managing researcher profiles and COS Funding Opportunities aggregating research grants available in North America. The Community of Science was acquired by CSA (formerly Cambridge Scientific Abstracts) in December 2005. CSA was a division of Cambridge Information Group, now the parent company of ProQuest. COS and RefWorks were merged into RefWorks COS as a new subsidiary business of ProQuest in 2008. ProQuest placed both Ref- Works and Pivot under Ex Libris in October 2017.

In addition to its own direct sales efforts, ProQuest and Ex Libris have also extended the reach of Pivot through partnerships with other organizations. In May 2017, ProQuest partnered with InfoReady Corporation to integrate Pivot into InfoReady Review, a platform designed to help the office of research in a university manage grant administration (https:// In March 2018, Ex Libris formed a partnership with Cayuse, a company specializing in products and services for research support, as a reseller for Pivot (see

*Research Joins Ex Libris

Consistent with Ex Libris's expanding involvement with products beyond library management and discovery services, it has acquired a company specializing in news gathering, analysis, and policy issues in the field of scientific research. Londonbased *Research (Research Research Ltd.) is a major source of news and analysis on funding opportunities, research initiatives, and governmental policy issues. Its focus has been primarily on Europe, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

*Research Professional, the company's flagship content product, provides discovery of funding opportunities, news, and editorial coverage for the scholarly research sector. The company's publishing platform has been designed to integrate with institutional systems for research management. Around 250 institutions subscribe to *Research Professional, including most higher educational institutions in the United Kingdom as well as governmental agencies and other research-oriented organizations.

*Research was founded by William Cullerne Bown in 1994, following a career in academia, public policy, and journalism. His involvement in journalism included writing for The Independent and as the policy editor of New Scientist. Cullerne Bown launched Research Fortnight as the initial publication of the company, largely in response to the increasing competition for research funding in the UK and the increased need for information regarding funding opportunities and related editorial content. The company subsequently launched additional publications focused on other geographic regions: Research Europe Onderzoek Nederland and Research Africa. In May 2017, *Research published the 500th edition of Research Fortnight.

In 2001, the print publications of *Research were consolidated into the web-based platform *Research Professional. *HE was recently launched as a new service providing concise briefings oriented to higher education decision makers and is available through *Research Professional as a premium option. In addition to *Research Professional, the publications also continue to be distributed in print form. In addition to subscription revenue, *Research also sells advertising placed in its publications, primarily for job openings, funding opportunities, and conferences.

*Research Professional includes personalization features enabling individuals at subscribing institutions to receive information streams tailored to their areas of interest. The platform also includes Funding Insight, a database of over 20,000 entries detailing grants and awards from major UK and European funding sources as well as interviews and other articles providing information and advice for developing successful grant applications.

*Unity Collaboration Platform Shuttered

*Research had helped launch a new collaboration platform for scholars in 2014 along with the Apereo Foundation, based on software created by the Open Academic Environment. Apereo also supports the development of other open source projects, including the Sakai learning management system uPortal, Open Equella digital repository, and the CAS single sign-on environment (see

*Unity was launched as a platform for file sharing and communication, envisioned as something like Dropbox for scholars but designed specifically for academics and researchers. It aimed to provide a convenient way to store and share documents and resources among persons working together on a project, especially those involving multiple institutions.

While researchers usually have other platforms for their work, *Unity was developed to be easier to use than typical internal platforms like Microsoft SharePoint and better suited for cross-institutional collaboration. Services like Box or Dropbox provide general file-sharing, but don't handle the institutional issues involved in research collaboration and are not integrated with authentication services and other campus infrastructure.

When a researcher leaves a project, for example, general file sharing services do not necessarily have features that ensure that the other members of the team continue to have access to the resources. Platforms such as GitHub and Jira provide robust collaborative capabilities but can be quite complex for set up and management for non-technical academic researchers.

The *Unity platform was pre-configured to provide tenants for over 20,000 institutions. Each of these tenants was available to support members from those institutions, either joining individually or as part of an institutionally supported service.

The project was based on a business model where individual researchers could join without cost with a premium service, where institutions could take control of their instance for an annual fee through a Service Level Agreement. This agreement also conferred ownership of resources stored on the platform to the institution. *Research operated the *Unity platform and received the revenue from institutional subscriptions.

*Unity will be discontinued as of September 10, 2018 and will not be supported by Ex Libris as it takes ownership of *Research. Though initially promoted to individual users invited to join the platform for free, the success of the project depended on institutional subscriptions. Prior to the closing date for the service, users will be able to download individual files, but a tool for bulk transfers is not available. The *Unity website states that all personal data and files will be destroyed once the service is closed. The Open Academic Environment software will continue to be developed for other implementations, such as the ESUP-Portail supporting a French consortium of research institutions.

Details of the *Research Acquisition

Ex Libris has acquired full ownership of *Research, which was previously privately owned by Cullerne Bown. Ex Libris, a ProQuest company, is owned by Cambridge Information Group and Goldman Sachs. Bar Veinstein leads Ex Libris as President, reporting to Matti Shem Tov, Chief Executive Officer of ProQuest. The *Research organization will become part of the Ex Libris Learning and Research Solutions business, reporting to Shlomi Kringel, Vice President.

*Research produces original publications through its own news gathering and editorial personnel. These publications will continue to operate under Ex Libris with the same level of editorial independence in place prior to the acquisition.

At the time of the acquisition, *Research employed around 80 personnel. Cullerne Bown joins ProQuest as Research Principal and will bring his extensive knowledge and understanding of the research arena to help guide Ex Libris as it deepens its involvement in this aspect of the academic enterprise. The financial details of the acquisition have not been publicly disclosed.

The acquisition of *Research expands Ex Libris's portfolio of products and services related to academic research support. In addition to the publications and services of *Research, the product portfolio of the Ex Libris Learning and Research Services division now includes the Primo and Summon discovery services, RefWorks reference manager, Leganto reading list and copyright management platform, the recently launched Esploro research services platform, and the Pivot funding opportunity resource. For more information on the Esploro research services platform, see the March 2018 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter.

*Research and Pivot both include global funding opportunities components, but with some difference in the geographic focus and features. The European focus of *Research complements Pivot, which covers funding opportunities primarily from a North American perspective. Both *Research Professional and Pivot provide discovery features and content related to funding opportunities that can be integrated into external systems.

Pivot and *Research are natural integration components for the Ex Libris Esploro research services platform. This combination seems consistent with the general strategy of Ex Libris to not just develop software, but to create platforms populated with knowledge bases, central indexes, or other content components. Earlier examples include SFX with a global knowledge base, Primo with a central discovery index, and Alma with its Community Zone.

Table 1: Competitive Matrix of Products and Services

Product ProQuest EBSCO Elsevier Clarivate Digital Science Other Competitors
Products oriented to Library Personnel
Resource Management Alma; Aleph; Voyager FOLIO; Full Text Finder; Holdings Management; Integration services with 60 ILS products OCLC WorldShare Management Services;
Innovative Sierra;
SirsiDynix Symphony
Selection and ordering for Librarians OASIS; MyLlibrary GOBI; EBSCONET; Subscriptions Management
Bibliographic metadata and Knowledge bases Alma Community Zone; SFX Global Knowledge Base EBSCO Integrated Knowledge Base OCLC Cataloging and WorldCat
Reading List / Copyright Management Leganto Curriculum Builder (learning management system plug-in) Talis Aspire
Article and Research Data Repositories
Institutional Repository Esploro (included functionality) bepress FigShare DSpace; eprints; Fedora; Samvera; TIND Institutional Repository
Research Data Repository Mendeley Data [Related: Data Citation Index] FigShare TIND RDM
Search tools for students and scholars
Index-based Discovery Primo; Summon EBSCO Discovery Service OCLC WorldCat Discovery Service;
Google Scholar
;Microsoft Academic
Citation Database Scopus (71 million records) Web of Science (90 million records) Dimensions (premium version includes grants, patents, and clinical trials) CORE (134,272,290 open access articles) (; 1findr from 1Science (90 million records); Unpaywall (19.4 million open access articles)
Browser Plug-in Kopernio Anywhere Access Unpaywall-Impactstory
Library Access—Lean Library
Citation Manager RefWorks Mendeley EndNote Zotero—open source (George Mason University);
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Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 09
Issue:September 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Company: Ex Libris
Record Number:24062
Last Update:2022-12-05 14:53:16
Date Created:2019-03-05 16:30:49