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ADS Bumblebee: What to Look Forward to in 2018

ADS Beta, codenamed Bumblebee, is nearing parity with ADS Classic! The ADS development team has been working on Bumblebee since 2015, an outgrowth of earlier efforts (ADS Labs, ADS 2.0) to modernize the look and capabilities of ADS. While Classic has been a mainstay of astronomical research for the past 25 years, receiving 50,000 visitors a day and over three-quarters of a million visitors every month, the legacy code it’s built on prevents significant improvements in features, speed, or capacity.

In addition to bringing the ADS architecture up-to-date, Bumblebee provides a much richer search experience. For the first time, users can search the contents of many papers, such as the article full text, acknowledgements, and author affiliations. They can also preview parts of the paper, such as embedded graphics and text snippets showing the search term in context, from the search results and article pages. These improvements provide much more functionality in searching than Classic’s metadata-only search capabilities, which are limited to author, title, and abstract queries. Besides indexing many more fields than Classic, Bumblebee also offers other more advanced features, such as improved paper metrics and paper and author network visualizations.

author network Graphics from an example individual article. Clicking on an individual figure thumbnail links to an expanded view in the AAS Astronomy Image Explorer, which includes caption text. Graphics are available for articles from all AAS journals, A&A, and several Elsevier publications. Graphics extraction is also attempted for arXiv publications.

paper network Paper network for John Huchra.

While Bumblebee’s functionality has advanced beyond that of Classic in many ways, it is technically still in beta and is missing some Classic functionality. We plan on closing this gap over the next few months, but in the meantime, here’s a list of upcoming features to look forward to in Bumblebee over the coming months before we officially remove the beta label:

  • Custom bibliography export formats
  • NED object searches and filtering (similar functionality for SIMBAD objects is already available)
  • Availability of arXiv records within a few hours of the daily arXiv posting (currently there is a day of lag in Bumblebee vs. Classic for these records)
  • Reporting on collaborators/affiliations for use with NSF grant applications
  • Additional data and paper linking options

Under the current development schedule, Bumblebee will reach parity with Classic and lose its beta label early in the second quarter of 2018. At that point, we’ll begin more advanced testing with end users to discover any remaining issues and resolve those as quickly as possible. Over the following year, as Bumblebee matures, we’ll mark Classic for retirement and eventually redirect all Classic search URLs to Bumblebee. Within a year of Bumblebee reaching maturity, we plan on discontinuing web access to Classic. The Classic API will also eventually be retired in favor of the Bumblebee API, though that will happen on a slightly longer timeline than for the front-end web interface.

Realizing that change doesn’t always come easy, we are working on mitigation plans to smooth the transition. Users worried about losing the Classic search interface may appreciate Bumblebee’s Classic search form. Bookmarked Classic links to any individual abstract pages or hardcoded search queries, such as an author search, will continue to work. And we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves to help users acclimatize to Bumblebee’s search syntax, which we’ll be rolling out once Bumblebee’s beta phase has ended.

Switching off a 25-year-old legacy system is no easy task! If you’d like to get involved and volunteer as an end user tester, email us or come chat with us at our AAS 231 booth, #630. And as always, if you’d like to share any feedback on the new system, drop us a line.