Originally published on the ALPSP blog. Republished with permission from ALPSPAuthor: Heidi Russell-Jones
In the third of our series on our Awards finalists we catch up with Rhianna Jones to hear about Escalex.
Tell us a bit about your company
Molecular Connections is a leading supplier of manually curated databases and informatics solutions to major pharmaceuticals, high throughput data analysts and systems biology companies across the globe.
IFIS Publishing is a global, not-for-profit information provider in the sciences of food and health. IFIS publishes FSTA, a comprehensive database of scientific and technological research and information relating to food, beverages, and nutrition.
What is the project that you submitted for the Awards?
We submitted Escalex, a one-stop knowledgebase for authoritative regulatory information on food and drink.
To give some background, Escalex came out of discussions with the academic and industry food communities. We kept hearing how difficult and time-consuming it was to find essential food regulatory information and keep-to-date with changes. Food law is a very complex area. Even within one country, regulations can be managed by a range of government departments, with information stored in different places and with varying levels of standardisation. When you need information across multiple geographies, it becomes even more challenging.
Furthermore, many regulatory documents are hundreds of pages long. A frequent pain point was that even when one has the right document, it can still take a long time to find a specific piece of information within it.
IFIS and Molecular Connections recognised that together we could make a real difference in this area. After three years of research, development and testing, we launched Escalex in April 2017.
Tell us more about how it works and the team behind it
Escalex's strength comes from the combination of IFIS' expertise in managing complex scientific food and beverage information, and Molecular Connections' innovative information discovery and mining capabilities.
For example, we discovered that throughout food regulations globally, there is no standardised format or categorisation of the themes for regulatory documents. As part of Escalex’s development, in-house experts in food law and food science created categories and subcategories for deep-indexing the content, which have been specifically designed for optimum granularity.
With a user-friendly interface and dedicated search lenses, Escalex facilitates multiple ways to navigate content, including tabulated data. Every record is indexed in-depth using a commodity-based and regulations-enriched thesaurus, which enables high granularity of search results.
Why do you think it demonstrates publishing innovation?
From our research, it was clear that there was no solution available that met the complex information needs of the community.
Escalex was built from scratch using real-life use cases, resulting in an efficient research tool to mine and digest food regulation content.
We recognise that every user is different. Some like to browse, others like keyword searching. Some will be experts in food law, others will be beginners. Some people will want the full, original document, while others will want a snippet. We developed Escalex with this in mind, providing users with a choice of routes into the regulatory information: Dashboard, Explore, Limits, Definitions and Documents. Escalex also provides annotated, bookmarked versions to make the full documents easier to navigate.
We have also designed Escalex to point users in the direction of additional relevant information that they may not have been aware of, such as related documents, validity dates to help manage transitional periods, and the option to open up an easy follow on search in another lens.
These are just a few examples of innovation within Escalex, aiming to make food law research easier and more effective.
What are your plans for the future?
We have an exciting development roadmap in place. In line with feedback from the community, we are currently working on Brazil, India, Malaysia and Singapore as the next countries to be added, as well as GRAS reports and US state level regulations.
We also have lots of ideas for additional functionalities, so Escalex is going to be keeping us all busy for the foreseeable future!
Rhianna Jones is Senior Marketing Manager at IFIS Publishing, and an active volunteer with the Special Libraries Association and Institute of Food Technologists, British Section.
See the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing Finalists lightning sessions at our Annual Conference on 13-15 September, where the winners will be announced.