Since 1968 SLAC has been maintaining a database of HEP documents called SPIRES, and this has become one of the main tools used by anybody searching the HEP literature. In recent years CERN has developed a much more modern document management system known as CDS Invenio. The two projects are now being brought together into something to be called INSPIRE, which will combine the best of both, in particular making the SPIRES data available through the more modern Invenio software.

There’s a press release from DESY about this here, and an alpha version is up and running here. The current state of the project is that most of the SPIRES functionality has been reproduced, and they are working on getting a beta version ready of a complete replacement of SPIRES.

Last week at DESY a workshop was held about this, announced as an HEP Information Resource Summit, talks are available here. There were presentations from other HEP information providers, including the APS, commercial publishers and the arXiv. The arXiv presentation discussed their desire to better support blogging, and the role of the blogosphere, including the fact that Garrett Lisi’s paper was the most downloaded article on the arXiv. The current trackback system provides links to 21 discussions of the paper, but due to the Distler/arXiv policy of censoring links to this blog, one that is missing is the discussion here. More and more very worthwhile content is appearing on blogs, so the question of how to make this readily available in a useful form will become an increasingly important one.

Unfortunately, while the arXiv does a good job of bringing together mathematics and physics, there seems to be no discussion of the role of the mathematics literature in the new INSPIRE system. Besides the arXiv, the main database used by mathematicians is the excellent MathSciNet developed by the AMS.

Update: Travis Brooks of SPIRES has a posting about this here.

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15 Responses to INSPIRE

  1. Professor R says:

    Thanks for the ArXiv presentation Peter, interesting reading.
    On the ‘like least ‘ slide, do you know what is meant by the three categories GUI, coverage, basic arXiv?

    I think it’s great to see Garrett’s paper riding so high – if nothing else, it’s nice to remind the wider physics community of the role of group theory in today’s particle physics!

  2. Professor R says:

    P.S. It seems strange that ArXiv have omited a trackback to the Lisi discussion on NEW. After all, Garrett himself contributed quite a bit to the discussion, as I recall – which is more than can be said for several of the discussions listed…Cormac

  3. Peter Woit says:


    If you want to read up on “Trackback-gate” from a couple years ago, see for instance:

    and follow the links. The bottom line there is that Distler is unhappy with any mention of my criticisms of string theory appearing anywhere he controls (he is involved in running the hep-th part of the arXiv), and some other well-known multiverse-promoting physicists are unhappy with the idea of links to my criticisms of this as pseudo-science appearing on the arXiv. So, links to my blog are banned on hep-th. A dishonest excuse that only blogs run by reputable “active researchers” are allowed to have links was made, you can look through the trackbacks to the Lisi article to see if that’s really the policy.

  4. Alejandro Rivero says:

    My experience with the people of SPIRES has always been better than with the arxiv. Of course, SPIRES do not need to censor papers. But I can cite two cases: when old physcomments needed to check for author data, Arxiv cut the access and SPIRES allowed it (and then Arxiv admins were paranoid because they thought I was hacking some of their mirrors). And when I worked out the genealogy of theoretical physicists, SPIRES people was kind enough to create a new “tree” output in HEPNAMES. But all of this was old history, before of the Arxiv API. So perhaps it could be interesting to give the guys some new credit!

    The social network think is an interesting idea. Perhaps they could provide an opensocial REST API interface, with “friends” akin to “coworkers”, and “activity” equal to “publication” or update of a preprint. Then standard Opensocial gadgets could work as extensions of the Arxiv.

  5. Professor R says:

    Thanks Peter, enjoyed that link, especially Smolin’s comment.

    I think the situation on the Lisi paper today points up the situation even more – if Garrett is happy to discuss his paper on your weblog, it seems absurd that ArXiv not link to the discussion in their list…

    Re ArXiv discussion of weblogs, I wonder did the criterion ‘usefulness’ get a mention – I find the links at NW v useful, which is why I keep coming back…Cormac

  6. somebody says:

    Distler is one of those guys who has to get off his throne. If he did not try to look so condescending, string theory would not have looked so pathetic, even despite your attacks. I say this as a string theorist, because he and Lubos do more to damage the credibility of string theorits than any single thing you have ever written. I have to say that I disagree with your views, but these guys do so much to help you!! Of late you are kind of extreme, but in the beginning at least, you were moderate, and some of us “string theorists” would have actuatlly agreed with you!

    Good work, Peter, because a bit of disagreement is always good!

  7. dragon says:

    I note that there are no trackbacks from L Motl to any of Lee Smolin’s papers since September 2006. It seems hard to believe that this is a case of voluntary restraint, so could it be that LM has been quietly banned from making trackbacks? That would be good news indeed.

  8. dragon says:

    By the way, I met someone at a conference who works in a field where people are regularly subjected to abuse by Motl and others. She said that she fears the trackback system — even if the attack is garbage, who can say whether a referee might be influenced by it? There’s no point in saying that everyone knows that LM is full of it — the usual formulation is that he may be a lunatic, but he really knows his physics. Even Distler seems to subscribe to this strange notion, which is actually very debatable indeed outside a small area; in some cases his views on *physics* have bordered on [or gone beyond the border of] crackpottery. So the danger of referees being influenced in a malign way is not negligible.

    So I strongly believe that the trackback system should be heavily moderated; only strictly technical discussions should be allowed, no attacks whether personal or otherwise, and no philosophical stuff [because that all too easily turns into abuse or something indistinguishable from it]. If the arxiv people aren’t willing to do that —- which would be a pity, because some trackbacks are actually very useful —- they should scrap the whole thing.

  9. anon. says:

    ‘I note that there are no trackbacks from L Motl to any of Lee Smolin’s papers since September 2006 … so could it be that LM has been quietly banned from making trackbacks? …’ – dragon

    See the second trackback (dated 7 Nov 2007) on the list

    arxiv censorship isn’t entirely automated. For example I updated a paper some years ago and it was given a number but then deleted within the time taken to refresh the browser (a few seconds). They rely on their genius at spotting errors in papers based on the author’s level of prestige and the title of the paper, not on reading and checking the actual content. So it is rather arbitrary. There are people there, making quick decisions based on gut feelings.

  10. Peter Woit says:


    I agree that Jacques and Lubos have done far more damage to the interests of the string theory community than critics like me. They represent only one rather pathological wing of this community, and it’s unfortunate that they have been the most vocal part of it in the blogosphere. I’m glad to hear that you appreciate what I’ve been up to here, even if you often disagree with it. You may be right that I’ve become more immoderate in recent times, perhaps driven to madness by the whole multiverse business…


    As anon points out, the arXiv hasn’t stopped trackbacks to Lubos’s blog, since there is one for Garrett’s article. At one point I was paying attention to which trackbacks were appearing there, trying to figure out what their policy was, but I gave up on that long ago, unable to make much sense of it.

    In general, I think the only way to provide a high quality source of information on the web is to have sensible people doing some degree of moderation of the content. This can’t be automated, and there’s no single right way to do it, with difficult choices having to be made. In general I think the arXiv does a good job, under difficult circumstances, but in this case I think they made an error in judgment, allowing decisions to be governed by someone seriously lacking in good sense. Distler’s conviction that anyone who disagrees with him about string theory must be incompetent, coupled with his belief that personal insult is the way to carry on scientific discussion make him an inappropriate person to be making decisions about moderation.

    As for the problem of links to Lubos’s blog postings swaying referees, I guess I think that if you have as a referee someone who takes Lubos seriously, you’ve already got a big problem, whether Lubos has a posting on the article or not.

  11. Daniel de França MTd2 says:

    I dont know exactly how much, who or why, etc… the damage someone did to the string theory image. But, I know that at least someone is doing a great job in promoting string theory, and that person in Urs, from n-cafe category. He is extremely helpful guy, always talks with formulas and try to work out ideas, even if those that re from non string framework, and is always motivated to promote string theory, even if it is in terms of just using its mathematics machinary.

    Sorry for the eulogizing here, it’s just that he is one of the people that made me start studying physics again after years of general deception with academia, and I wouldn’t like people cursing string theorists as they were all leading to failure. Maybe, at least some of the mathematical framework motivated by it, will be used in a future QG theory…

  12. Marcus says:

    Daniel, I think you mean
    “after years of general disappointment with academia,”

    decu, in French, translates to disappointed, in English (not to deceived).

    I share your high regard for Urs Schreiber and moreover do not consider him to be limited to string theory exclusively. He seems to have shifted successfully into mathematics, and have a wider scope now than he did a few years ago.

  13. Daniel de França MTd2 says:

    Sure Marcus, thanks. But my mother language is Portuguese, not French :). But since they are closely related languages, I can see that the correction would likely have the same result anyway. 🙂

    Even if I don’t not understanding everything, Urs always posts great tutorials so that we end up learning a lot. In this aspect, John Baez is great too.

    PS.: That word “de França” is in fact the first of my surnames, and the one I like best. I write “MTd2” just so that people can indentify my real name with the one I post on forums.

  14. Peter Orland says:

    I have been playing with the trial version of INSPIRE. Even the advanced search doesn’t seem as versatile as SPIRES. I hope that the beta version is better.

  15. Shantanu says:

    Btw ADS has papers going back to the 11th century !!. I wish there was a similar database of
    all GR papers.

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