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Polymer Centre research map

The new Polymer Centre research map has been built on an existing staff CMS that stores keywords and a précis of information about staff research interests. To create the map the keywords were first grouped into superordinate terms – for example the keywords ‘Rheology’ and ‘Optical properties’ falls under the generic class of ‘Polymer Analysis’ (or just Analysis).

To make the system as flexible as possible, the link between keywords and superordinate terms is done through a ‘plug board’ programming interface. In this, each keyword is assigned to a number of generic categories through selecting check boxes – easy!

The results are stored in a MySQL database, and this is used to power the research map itself. On first sight the map provides a coarse list of the superordinate terms – polymer analysis, characterisation and so on. On selecting one of these terms the list expands to show the relevant keywords. The keywords can in turn be expanded to display the names of research staff engaged in the work of interest.

The system therefore offers a simple visitor interface that can be quickly and intuitively navigated to find the information of interest. It offers a great advantage over an empty search box on one vital respect – it always offers the visitor a positive result! Not all sites have Google-like resources, and using a controlled language of keywords in this way allows us to guide a visitor to what we have, rather than their getting lots of failed searches.

While the research map offers visitors a neat tool for finding the information they want, it is also an engine to help ensure that search engines can tie our keywords to content on the Polymer Centre website. To do this, the meta content on each of the staff pages contains the same keywords they are associated with in the database.

In addition, however, the meta content of the research map itself is served dynamically. The page title, description and keywords are updated to reflect the level of the map that is being examined. Thus if you have opened a keyword, that keyword and the associated staff appear in the appropriate meta content sections of the research map page. As these sections are important to search engines in ascertaining the important content of a page, this design helps to ensure that the information the Polymer Centre carries about polymer research and near market activity is readily available on the world wide web.