Forget serendipity. Research scientists, meet social networking.
The National Institutes of Health have awarded the University of Florida — with Cornell University Library and Indiana University as major partners — a two-year, $12.2 million grant to bolster a national, Facebook-like, professional social network that enables scientists to find new biomedical research and partnerships. The new network will be called VIVOweb.
By fostering alliances, it is hoped that biomedical research and discovery will move faster. The project will rest on VIVO, a technology developed at Cornell since 2003. It built a comprehensive network of scientists that identified existing projects and initiated new cooperation.
"Before VIVO, the Cornell librarians heard a lot of frustration from faculty members who couldn't find collaborators from different disciplines across campus," says Medha Devare, Cornell librarian for bioinformatics and life sciences. "The idea of VIVO was to transcend administrative divisions and create a single point of access for scholarly interaction. Now that VIVO is expanding across institutions, the biomedical community will be able to benefit from that bird's eye perspective of their research."
Money for the new grant, awarded through NIH's National Center for Research Resources, originated from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. This has already opened eight positions at Cornell and more jobs at the other partners.
Cornell will spearhead the development of the multi-institutional functionality of the VIVO technology; the University of Florida will focus on developing technology for keeping each site's data current; and Indiana University Bloomington will develop social networking tools to enable researchers to find others with similar interests. Four other institutions — Scripps Research Institute, Juniper, Fla.; Ponce School of Medicine, Ponce, P.R.; Washington University of St. Louis; and the Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City — will serve as implementation sites.
Jon Corson-Rikert, head of Information Technology Services at Cornell's Mann Library, initially developed VIVO in 2003. As researchers and administrators embraced the newly created network, a team of programmers, designers and librarians expanded the project to all other disciplines at Cornell.
Other universities began to explore the open-source, free software. VIVO has been adopted for local networks at other universities and institutions in the United States, Australia and China. This new project will follow VIVO's original model and build a multi-institutional platform for the biomedical community.
The Cornell effort to develop VIVOweb will be led by Dean Krafft, the Library's chief technology strategist, Corson-Rikert and Devare. VIVOweb's open Semantic Web/Linked Data approach will empower researchers to extend their research communities — not just via prior knowledge or serendipity, but through recommendation or suggestion networks based on common traits described in the VIVOweb researcher profiles.