In a nutshell: EconBiz Beta Services

Author: Arne Martin Klemenz

EconBiz – the search portal for Business Studies and Economics – was launched in 2002 as the Virtual Library for Economics and Business Studies. The project was initially funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and is developed by the German National Library of Economics (ZBW) with the support of the EconBiz Advisory Board and cooperation partners. The search portal aims to support research in and teaching of Business Studies and Economics with a central entry point for all kinds of subject-specific information and direct access to full texts [1].

As an addition to the main EconBiz service we provide several beta services as part of the EconBiz Beta sandbox. These service developments cover the outcome of research projects based on large-scale projects like EU Projects as well as small-scale projects e.g. in cooperation with students from Kiel University. Therefore, this beta service sandbox aims to provide a platform for testing new features before they might be integrated to the main service (proof of concept development) on the one hand, and it aims to provide a showcase for relevant project output from related projects on the other hand.

Details about some exemplary selected beta services are provided in the following.

Current Beta Services

Online Call Organizer

Based on the winning idea of an EconBiz ideas competition, the Online Call Organizer (OCO) got developed in cooperation with students from Kiel University.

The OCO is a service based on the EconBiz Calendar of Events which contains events from all over the world like conferences and workshops that are relevant for economics, business studies and social sciences [2]. At the moment, the calendar of events contains more than 10,000 events in total, including more than 500 future events. The main idea of the OCO is to handle the huge amount of event related information in a better way with the objective to “never miss a deadline” like the registration or submission deadline of a relevant event in a user’s personal area of interest. The main EconBiz Calendar of Events service provides a keyword based facetted search functionality and detailed information for each event. In addition, the OCO provides a filter mechanism based on the user’s research profile.  This is combined with a notification service based on email and twitter alerts. The OCO is published as open beta and can be accessed here:

Technologically, the OCO is implemented based on PHP and JavaScript following the client-server model. The backend server processes, aggregates and transforms information about events retrieved from the EconBiz API which provides access to the EconBiz dataset following a RESTful API design. Besides that, the OCO server handles signup and authentication requests as well as any other user account related actions like changes regarding a user’s research profile or the notification settings. The server functionality is encapsulated by providing an internal API as outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Online Call Organizer - Client Server Architecture Overview

Silex – a micro web framework based on Symfony – provides the basis for the OCO Server API. The communication between OCO Client and the OCO Service API is based on common HTTP methods GET, PUT/POST and DELETE utilizing the JSON format. This allows a comfortable abstraction of the detailed application logic. Likewise, the server implements an additional abstraction layer based on the Doctrine ORM framework – an object-relational mapper (ORM) for PHP – that provides the capability to abstract the database layer.

The OCO server module handles its library dependencies with Composer – a tool for dependency management in PHP. Further functionality is based on the utilization of the following libraries and frameworks:

The core functionality – the alert service itself – is based on a daily cronjob which checks searches for events matching a user’s research profile by retrieving up to date data from the EconBiz API. Users can specify if they want to be notified by email and/or Twitter alert about events matching their research profile. Alerts are sent ‘X’ days (depending on the account settings) before the submission deadline ends, registration closes or the event actually takes place.

The corresponding multilingual (English/German) web client is based on PHP and JavaScript. It is kept quite simple, as it should mostly provide the possibility to edit basic account settings (email address, password, Twitter profile for alerts) and research profiles in a form-based manner. In addition to this, it provides a calendar overview for upcoming events based on the FullCalendar jQuery plugin. The communication with the OCO backend server is based on asynchronous requests (AJAX) in JSON format send to the OCO server API. In addition to the main jQuery and the FullCalendar library, the PHP based client’s skeleton utilizes the following common JavaScript libraries to implement its features:

Some parts of the OCO implementation have already been reused in the EconBiz portal. The full OCO service may be integrated with EconBiz as part of a scheduled reimplementation of the EconBiz Calendar of Events.

Other Beta Services

As part of the EconBiz Beta sandbox we provide several other beta services. On the one hand we would like to ease reuse of information provided in EconBiz. The EconBiz API provides full access to the EconBiz dataset. But for those, who are not comfortable with implementing their own services based on the API, we decided to provide some basic widgets that might be easily integrated to any website. The widgets come with a configuration and widget generation dialogue to make the integration as comfortable as possible. Currently, three different kinds of widgets are available: a search and event search widget as well as a bookmark widget. These widgets were initially meant to be a comfortable way e.g. for EconBiz Partners (see EconBiz Partner Network) to embed data from EconBiz into their websites, but these widgets are now also used in other ZBW services e.g. to embed lists with expert-selected literature based on the bookmark widget.

On the other hand, Visual Search Interfaces and Visualization Widgets as prototypes from the EEXCESS project are also presented in the EconBiz Beta sandbox. The EEXCESS vision is to unfold the treasure of cultural, educational and scientific long-tail content for the benefit of all users and to facilitate access to this high quality information [16]. One aspect of the project, which is reflected by the EEXCESS prototypes in the EconBiz Beta sandbox, is the visualization of search processes.

EEXCESS Visual Search Interfaces and Visualization Widgets:


With EconBiz Beta we provide a sandbox for services developed in the context of EconBiz. This blog post gave an overview of some selected EconBiz Beta services. Several more services are available here:

If you would like to disseminate a service you created based on the EconBiz API, we would like to publish your development in the EconBiz Beta sandbox. Please get in touch via and provide some information about the application.