Elsevier Researcher Academy

The case
The Elsevier Researcher Academy is a rebrand of the Elsevier Publishing Campus, an entirely free e-learning platform designed to unlock the potential of early and mid-career researchers. They’ll learn how to obtain funding for research, manage research data, improve writing skills, publish research papers, how to review papers effectively, how to respond to reviewer comments and much more.
Project description
As an information analytics company, Elsevier depends on high quality content. It’s from this that our tools and platforms create actionable knowledge. One of the ways of ensuring our content remains high quality and relevant is by bringing high potential younger researchers into the Elsevier Research Platforms ecosystem early on in their careers.

That was the aim of the Publishing Campus, which launched in April 2015. Over the last two and a half years we’ve deepened our understanding of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and in early 2017, after extensive user research, a project was kicked off to rebuild, rebrand and relaunch the platform as Researcher Academy.

Since its launch, Publishing Campus www.publishingcampus.com has provided training and guidance to 140,000 registered users and 875,000 unique visitors, helping early and mid-career researchers (MCRs) navigate their research journey and equipping them with the expertise to become the best researchers they possibly can be.

At the front end, the task was to create a clean and modern user interface that would provide a more sophisticated and valuable learning experience. Intuitive navigation, as well as progress and reward mechanisms, were designed to help nurture and retain users. To facilitate this, related modules have been grouped by topic, with certificates of excellence awarded to those who complete all modules within a topic. A module recommender and ‘Up Next’ functionality similar to YouTube have also been built. And depending on how far users progress, they can earn discount codes for the Author Webshop and Elsevier books. Throughout the design process we worked closely with the UX/UCD team to ensure the best possible user experience, as well as branding compliance.
At the backend we moved to Drupal 8, which integrates with ID+ (Elseviers’ single sign on solution) and a separate backend for user management. This allows for a seamless movement of users between all participating platforms within the Elsevier ecosystem. Most challenging was the use of this cutting edge technology, sometimes partly undocumented, and integrating all systems to a high degree of robustness. These challenges were overcome by a combination of getting key actors together for discussion, documenting everything, detailed testing, extensive logging and plain old elbow-grease.

Drupal version: 8
Hosting enviroment: AWS
Build server: Jenkins
Deployements: Docker
Project method: Agile / SCRUM
Project software: Jira
Community contributions
Much of the Researcher Academy is build on Drupals’ core API’s, mostly stable contrib modules and custom code. We were also able to contribute back to the Elasticsearch connector module, its accompanying php library des-connector and some related projects. We’ve encountered several bugs and missing features that we were able to resolve with a patch/pull request. Some issues: