Engineers conduct more searches for equations online, but
they are dissatisfied with the results, a 2013 survey
conducted on behalf of Knovel found.
A majority of engineers surveyed look for equations at least
once a week, and increasingly they search via the Internet
first, rather than references, handbooks and other
Use of Internet search tools has grown significantly, from
59% of engineers surveyed in 2010 to 78% of engineers
surveyed in 2013. Yet, engineers do not easily find the
specific equations they need for a variety of engineer tasks
online. There is also low satisfaction with the process of
documenting, validating and saving equations for future use.
In the 2013 survey of 200 engineers, primarily mechanical
engineers from companies with more than 1,000 employees,
online search surpassed printed material (including books and
manuals) as the first place engineers go to find equations.
About 92% of engineers searching online rely on public search
engines such as Google, up from 41% in 2010.
Although Google is the first place engineers turn, it is the
least satisfying for results, the study finds. Many things
are easier to find online now, but specific equations are not
Once engineers find the right equation, they face additional
challenges including using the right tool to perform their
calculations and accessing an integrated solution to validate
and share calculations. About 47% surveyed write the equation
out on paper.
Engineers rely on several different software tools, including
scientific calculators, MATLAB and Mathcad, for their
calculation needs. However, Microsoft Excel tops the list for
use and dominates how engineers share equations. Excel was
not designed with engineering needs in mind.
While engineers do go online to search for the equations they
need, they still go offline for calculation and validation of
their work. Of note, 87% surveyed use their hard drive to
save their calculation and 84% use Excel to share their
calculation with peers.
"The web offers convenient and seemingly easy search options
for engineers looking for resources to support them as they
perform their jobs, but they need to find relevant and
reliable answers they can trust to increase productivity as
well as their confidence in the results," said Meagan Cooke,
a senior director with Knovel.
"Focused on the needs of engineers, Knovel continuously
engages with the engineering community to identify ways to
improve the engineering workflow with tools and trusted
content and data. This survey highlights some of the
challenges that can be improved for engineers."