MyScienceWork, a 15-person company, was voted winner of the Startup Shootout at the February 2017 National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS) annual conference. Recently, I checked in with co-founder Virginie Simon to learn more about the company’s background, mission, and products and to find out what it’s been doing since the NFAIS conference.
Simon, who holds a doctorate in nanotechnology from University Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) in Paris, became convinced of the need to make science more open and collaborative while working on her Ph.D. A short stint at a nanomedicine startup whetted her appetite for entrepreneurship, and in 2010 she and Tristan Davaille (now company CFO) founded MyScienceWork with a mission to build a global, multidisciplinary platform for collaboration among researchers. Expansion to Luxembourg came in 2012 and to San Francisco in 2014.
Asked about the motivation for opening the San Francisco office and her experiences in moving to the Bay Area, Simon highlighted the opportunities to make connections with other startups and with giants such as Alphabet (Google), saying, “Being located in Silicon Valley lets you be at the epicenter of technological innovation, constantly absorb new ideas and, especially, to move fast, very fast.” Among the negatives, Simon noted that she rarely encounters other female CEOs and entrepreneurs among her Silicon Valley business contacts. As a longtime advocate for gender equity and an alumna member of the European Network for Women in Leadership, she’s determined to see that change.
As for the company’s product line and business model, MyScienceWork offers a suite of services targeted to the interests of different actors in the information marketplace. Its Polaris product is an institutional repository solution available in turnkey or cloud-based versions. Its Sirius product offers Big Data bibliometric analysis capabilities with customized dashboards for publishers and commercial customers who need to track research productivity as well as scientific research and publication trends. And for the individual researcher, it operates a free open source repository and social network under the MyScienceWork name. The MyScienceWork site enables members to upload their work, access published papers across multiple open source and commercial repositories, and communicate with other researchers.
Polaris, the company’s first product, was released in early 2015. Targeted to meet the needs of both research institutions—such as universities—and publishers, it hosts institutional repositories, with sophisticated capabilities to manage a variety of requirements. It interfaces with industry standard tools, including ORCID and CrossRef, and facilitates adding content to the repository with automatic metadata extraction. Missing metadata are highlighted for manual input. Repository managers can control which items in the repository are shared, and with whom. Publisher embargo dates can be set so that documents are managed but not shared until after the embargo date is past. Copyright restrictions can also be enforced to allow limited access. In addition, the product includes analytical and communications tools so that repository managers can promote research, track research productivity, and assess impact.
New in 2017 was Polaris OS (open source), based on standards such as DOI, JSON, and OAI-PMH. MyScienceWork expects to make the code available on the open source development platform GitHub in early 2018. Simon characterizes it as “the next generation of open source repository. ... [It] integrates a library management system, a research data repository, a multimedia archive, and an institutional archive.” In addition to its data management functionality, it includes an analytics dashboard to support assessment needs.
Sirius was released in January 2017, shortly before the NFAIS conference. Its target audiences include research institutions, publishers, and corporate clients—any organization that needs to track, analyze, and visualize research productivity. Harvesting data from a variety of repositories and publisher sites as well as its own MyScienceWork database, it enables research managers to analyze research trends and impact, identify global centers of excellence, and map networks of institutional and international research collaboration. Custom dashboards, built by the company to client specifications, provide at-a-glance reporting.
Accomplishments and Partnerships
Meanwhile, 2017 saw expansion in both the content and use of the company’s MyScienceWork global platform. The number of monthly unique visitors grew to exceed 1 million, and its index grew to more than 70 million documents. It added patents as well as research articles, and it now boasts access to U.S. and European patents and integration with well-known repositories such as MEDLINE, arXiv, Academia.edu, the University of California’s eScholarship Repository, Sorbonne University, and GreyNet’s OpenGrey Repository. Although the presence of patents, MEDLINE, and arXiv, among others, might suggest an exclusive focus on STEM, MyScienceWork maintains a firm cross-disciplinary approach and incorporates content in social sciences and humanities as well as in science and technology.
The company is actively seeking data-sharing partnerships with scholarly publishers, highlighting increased visibility as well as its automatic copyright-monitoring capability as benefits to the publisher. MyScienceWork claims that integration with its platform can increase the visibility of a repository’s content by up to 60%. In other words, by creating an aggregated index of records in OA repositories as well as publisher databases, it is able to identify the presence of copyrighted articles in OA repositories. As evidence of the extent of the copyright problem, MyScienceWork cites a February 2017 article by Hamid R. Jamali showing that based on a sample of 500 ResearchGate articles, “201 (51.3%) out of 392 non-OA articles infringed the copyright and were non-compliant with publishers’ policy.”
Looking ahead to 2018, Simon plans an emphasis on market expansion and an ongoing commitment to R&D. Noting that the company is “at the beginning of its commercial traction,” she looks forward to expanding its customer community outside its current bases in France, Luxembourg, and the U.S. to other European countries such as Belgium and Switzerland and to breaking into Asian markets. Simon sees ongoing development of the company’s natural language processing and other AI capabilities as essential and says that about 50% of the current budget is devoted to R&D.
On a personal note, Simon received the French American Business Awards’ Gold Award for Woman Role Model in May 2017. She says it has opened up new opportunities to share her experiences working as a woman scientist and entrepreneur with others, and she looks forward to expanding her engagement in promoting women in science, technology, and business.
In short, Simon hopes to continue pursuing the mission of making scholarship more open, more collaborative, more interdisciplinary, more international, and more gender-neutral in the coming year.