Not-for-profit educational charity IFIS has launched its first database that is universally accessible at no cost, citing the “pressing need to expedite the journey towards a sustainable food system” as its motivation.
“The food industry plays a pivotal role in addressing pressing global challenges, including climate change, environmental degradation, plastic waste, and more. It is both a contributor to and a victim of these challenges, making it imperative for the food system to undergo a comprehensive transformation. We recognised the critical need for innovation to address these issues and drive sustainability,” Katy Askew, managing director of IFIS Publishing, told Fi Global Insights.
Against this backdrop, Askew said IFIS saw an opportunity to provide a tool that would grant food innovators access to the latest research in sustainable food science.
“It is crucial that these innovators build upon the existing body of research to find effective and sustainable solutions. This is the right time to launch IFIS Sustainability, as the food industry is at a crossroads, facing a pressing need for solutions based on trustworthy scientific evidence,” she added.
Exclusive focus on sustainability
IFIS Sustainability stands out in comparison to traditional online libraries like Wiley, PubMed, or Google Scholar due to its exclusive focus on sustainable food science, according to Askew.
“While these well-known libraries provide access to a broad spectrum of academic research, our database offers a specialised collection of recent, high-quality studies directly related to food sustainability,” she said.
Although peer-reviewed studies account for a sizeable proportion of the 10,000+ documents on the database, content also includes reports, reviews, patents, theses, conference proceedings, book chapters, and regulatory standards.
In science we trust
Content is “meticulously” curated by a team of food and data scientists, who vet and index material for relevance, trustworthiness, and timeliness, as well as to exclude junk science and predatory content, said Askew.
“Trust is of the utmost importance in the academic world as it is estimated that up to 25% of global scientific research is published through predatory channels. These unscrupulous publishers prioritise profit over scientific integrity, often resorting to unethical practices such as falsifying peer review processes,” she explained.
“We take a strong stance against predatory content, ensuring that the information users access in our database is reliable, reputable, and devoid of low-quality or unethical research.”
To date, she said the team had identified and excluded 147 predatory journals, of which 146 are discoverable on Google Scholar and 44 are indexed in PubMed.
IFIS hopes that by providing this open, inclusive forum for accessing sustainability information, the database will bring people together in collaborative efforts and allow them to build on one another’s work.
“IFIS Sustainability acts as a catalyst for collaboration by providing a common space where stakeholders from different backgrounds can access, share, and build upon scientific knowledge, ultimately working together to advance the sustainability of the global food system,” said Askew.
She said the platform fostered collaboration in three ways: through its interdisciplinary approach, global perspective, and ability to assist with collective knowledge-building.
“IFIS Sustainability covers a wide range of research themes, including economics, technology, food policy, ecology, consumer behaviour, agriculture, and plant-based solutions. This interdisciplinary approach facilitates cross-sector collaboration, bringing together experts from various fields to tackle complex food sustainability issues,” she added.
By cataloguing content from various sources and languages, the database offers a global perspective, according to Askew.
“This global reach fosters international collaboration as researchers and professionals share insights and best practices from different regions,” she said.
And by facilitating access to the latest scientific insights, the platform is said to enable researchers to learn from and expand upon the work of others.
“This knowledge-sharing approach encourages collaboration and innovation,” said Askew.
Access for all
To make the resource available to as many people as possible, it is free to access and has been designed with simplicity in mind.
“You don't need to be an academic search expert to find the information you require. Making knowledge easily available is at the heart of our platform's design,” said Askew.
As a not-for-profit educational charity, IFIS uses revenue generated from paid-for products such as its Food Science and Technology Abstract (FSTA) database to finance IFIS Sustainability.
FSTA encompasses a repository of approximately two million records spanning a diverse array of disciplines, from biotechnology and sensory analysis to agronomics and chemical engineering. Its clientele ranges from academic institutions like Wageningen, Jiangnan, and Cornell universities to industry giants such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo, as well as organisations like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“The revenue we generate from these services is continuously reinvested to enhance our existing product offerings and to innovate and develop new solutions. Our mission is rooted in addressing the information needs of the food science community, and we extend this commitment by providing free educational resources and participating in initiatives like the UN's Research4Life programme,” explained Askew.
Companies and individuals can access IFIS Sustainability at no cost by completing a simple registration process, accessible via this link.