Last fall I wrote about several social networking/collaboration projects from Elsevier—2collab and Scirus Topic Pages (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=40102). The initiatives were designed to support academic library communities and their researchers with advanced "Research 2.0" tools. The resources created social spaces in which researchers could work together. These tools offer platforms for shared knowledge to be leveraged for information discovery and evaluation.
Since then, I’ve seen greatly increased activity in this space, with new initiatives popping up in a number of arenas, many related to scientific collaboration, others to more general research organization and networking. Some of the tools emphasize organizing and managing references—an online extension of a software tool such as EndNote. Others emphasize collaborative knowledge sharing.
Research1 (www.researchchannel.org/research1) is a new service being developed by ResearchChannel, with the support of the National Science Foundation. It is now in private beta testing so I haven’t been able to look at it yet, though there’s a video of developers Andre Tan and Nate McQueen discussing it at www.researchchannel.org/prog/displayevent.aspx?rID=21151&fID=345. Research1 is a web-based collaboration platform that allows researchers to collaborate with peers and share information with the general public. It offers "project hubs," blogs, forums, wikis, messaging, media management features (for audio, video, slideshows), etc. The organizing team says it hopes that it will become "a service that revolutionizes the way researchers, academics, and the general public interact with one another." It is intended to be highly interactive and engaging. Researchers are encouraged to share their content under a Creative Commons license, though they can also choose to allow only colleagues or the media to use their content.
ResearchChannel is a nonprofit media and technology organization that was founded in 1996 by a consortium of research and academic institutions to share the valuable work of their researchers with the public. ResearchChannel, operated at the University of Washington, is now available to more than 30 million U.S. satellite and cable television subscribers and its website is visited by more than 1.6 million visitors each year. The channel is also available on 70 university and school-based cable systems in the U.S. and in other countries.
Labmeeting is a new free service that allows academic scientists to organize their collections of papers by uploading their library of PDFs to a private and secure collection. The PDFs appear inside an embedded Scribd window (www.scribd.com). It also provides PubMed search results for papers. Researchers can also connect with others and collaborate with their labs on Labmeeting.com. It is intended for researchers in the biomedical sciences and related spaces. Users must have an academic email address and be a current student, researcher, or professor. Erick Schonfeld interviewed founder Mark Kaganovich for TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/30/labmeeting-a-social-network-for-scientists) and provided some details of the new social network: "Scientists can recommend papers to colleagues, mark them up, create collections, and follow what other scientists are collecting. Each scientist gets a profile page. By interacting through their research, they are more likely to interact with each other. Labmeeting could also form of basis a community ranking system for scientific papers, based on who is reading, writing, and sharing them."
Mendeley (www.mendeley.com) is Windows/Linux/Mac software for managing and sharing research papers as well as a website for discovering research trends and connecting to like-minded academics. It recently launched into public beta. The site says that privacy is protected and users can select with whom to share their data. The application automatically extracts metadata, full-text, and cited references from PDF files, builds up a personal research library, and offers sophisticated searching, tagging, and filtering functionality. Data from Mendeley Desktop is exchanged with Mendeley Web, the online research network where users can back up and access their library database, discover the most widely read papers in their academic discipline, and connect to like-minded scientists and researchers. The U.K.-based company says it plans to add a recommendation engine.
The sites and services for research sharing do seem to be proliferating at a rapid pace. Here’s a quick review of some of the other ones I’ve been following.
There’s CiteULike (www.citeulike.org), "a free online service to organise references to academic papers of interest and share them with others." The site is now sponsored by scientific publisher Springer (www.springer.com), so I expect to see additional development of this social bookmarking website for researchers.
I’ve written before about Zotero (www.zotero.org), a project from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Zotero is a research tool (available as a Firefox extension) that lets users save, organize, annotate, share, and cite posts. An alliance with the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) will help to create the planned Zotero Commons, which will provide social networking and collaboration opportunities.
WizFolio Web 2.0, from a company in Singapore (www.wizfolio.com), offers online journal reference management and sharing of references with colleagues who also have an account. At this point it integrates with PubMed but more sites are planned.
Academici (www.academici.com) offers a technology transfer and knowledge brokering platform, where knowledge can be exchanged and business conducted. It offers both free and premium memberships.
AcademiaConnect.org is a new research sharing social network and scholar directory for academics, researchers, and graduate students of all disciplines. It is currently in private beta release.
Here are some other community research sharing sites: (From a helpful list posted by blogger Bertalan Meskό: http://scienceroll.com/2008/05/24/community-sites-for-scientists-and-physicians-the-list)