Stimulus grant establishes ‘Facebook for scientists’

| November 6, 2009

A $12.2 million grant from National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) will establish a new national network for sharing information between scientists, which has been described as "Facebook for scientists." The funding for this effort comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The project's lead organization is the University of Florida; other participants are Cornell University, Washington University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Indiana University, Scripps Research Institute and the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico. Initially, each institution will establish its own network of researchers. Within two years, the team aims to have the network connected across the country. Eventually organizers intend to broaden the scope of the project to include researchers around the world.

Project collaborators will build upon open-source software known as VIVO that was originally developed at Cornell University. Described as a research discovery tool, VIVO allows users to search on one site for all publicly known information about a specific topic or researcher. On Cornell's VIVO site, a search for the word "cancer," for example, yields dozens of results, but they are broken up into categories like "people," "opportunities" and "topics." Clicking on any category takes one to another set of subgroups that allows searchers to more quickly find exactly what they want.

Scientists will not need to regularly update their profiles on the new network. Instead, collections of relevant facts, such as name, title, publication record, and more will be collected from verifiable data sources, such as scientific journals and university web pages. This will allow individual profiles to be automatically updated, minimizing the need for manual revision and making the information easily searchable and presentable.

The Washington University portion of this project and the CBMI are supported by the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS) at Washington University. The ICTS is Washington University's implementation of a National Institutes of Health program known as the Clinical and Translational Science Awards, which provides funding for research designed to reduce the time it takes laboratory discoveries to be translated into improved diagnosis and treatment of patients.


Category: General Healthcare News

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