Newly launched searchRxiv builds search community to foster easier, quicker research

CABI launched searchRxiv (pronounced ‘search archive'), its new open access platform. The website is designed to let researchers report, store and share their searches, thus helping with the review and re-use of existing searches to make research quicker and easier.

searchRxiv is open to everyone. It’s free for researchers to post, comment, download and sign up for an account. The goal is to encourage as many researchers as possible to join the searchRxiv community. CABI will support the community in the building of this search string database.

This is different concept from the OA preprint sites bearing similar names. The initial impetus for creating a place to share preprints before peer review and publishing was ArXiv. Founded by Paul Ginsberg at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1991 for physics papers, it has expanded the number of scientific disciplines it includes and is now hosted by Cornell University.

The idea caught on. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory hosts BioRxiv (started in 2013) and MedRxiv (started in 2019). The Center for Open Science added AfricaRxiv and ArabRxiv in 2018 and BioHacrXiv in 2020. Even CABI joined the Rxiv movement in 2017 with AgriRxiv, an OA preprint server for agriculture and allied sciences.

But searchRxiv isn’t a preprint server. It focuses on the search strategies used by authors rather than the paper itself. According to CABI’s blog post, searchRxiv supports evidence synthesis, described by the Royal Society  as “the process of bringing together information from a range of sources and disciplines to inform debates and decisions on specific issues.”

Researchers can use search strings across many databases and resources to assess the records. They can then evaluate existing research over a variety of databases. Plus, community feedback in the comments section will trigger potential modifications in existing search strings or the creation of new ones. Posted search strings receive a digital object identifier (DOI) that can be linked to an ORCID ID or to Plum Analytics to see the number of citations and downloads.

At searchRxiv, you can search by author, year, geographic location, broader terms, topics, platform, database, and appraisal via pull-down menus or simply enter terms in the search box. You can also submit a search and copy search strings to a clipboard. Currently, content in searchRxiv is sparse but it should grow over time.

The website was developed in consultation with researchers and librarians, particularly The Working Group on Search Strategy Repository & Data Structure, whose members represent the many communities of practice involved with evidence synthesis and information retrieval, led by Neal R. Haddaway, Stockholm Environment Institute, and Melissa Rethlefsen, HSLIC, University of New Mexico.

CABI believes that a well-constructed search strategy is the foundation of evidence-based research in any discipline. Community involvement can only improve search quality through refinements to existing strategies. Although other companies share search strategies for a few topics—Dialog Solutions calls them Search Hedges but there are only seven and Factiva has Expert Searches—only CABI is encouraging researchers to share their search strategies and comment on existing strategies to improve their quality. Now it only needs more researchers to share their search strings to achieve maximum impact.