Knowing where and how to invest in new research areas can be challenging. We recently sat down with Duane Williams, PhD, Vice President at ÜberResearch, to learn more about the database and software that they offer to help publishers and funders make strategic investment decisions in the research community.
Q: ÜberResearch offers a database and software to help inform investments in research. How does it work?
A: Traditionally when data is used to inform strategic research investment decisions, the focus is primarily on articles. That’s useful because publications are the currency of research. But publications present the research findings from a particular area within a researcher’s broader aims, and they typically represent work that was completed several months to a year in the past.
Our company is taking a different approach. By focusing on the inputs, the research grants, we can provide a view into the researcher’s broader interests. Grants also present an earlier indication of where the science is going, and we believe that’s very useful to inform strategic research decisions.
Q: But research grants lead to papers, right? Why aren’t published articles good indicators for where the research is?
A: Well, it is useful, but does not present the full picture. For example, consider the time lag between a grant and a publication. It’s roughly on the order of a government administration. So if you solely use publications to inform where the research is going or how you might make a strategic investment, where you might create a new journal, those sorts of things, one thing you may be missing is the researcher’s response to a change in policy.
Q: Ok, you’ve convinced me! Could you share some examples of how the database can be used?
A: Some of the main applications include finding where the funding gaps are in research. Where can a small foundation put their investment to make a significant impact, and most importantly, avoid duplication of research efforts? A small foundation doesn’t want to fund the same thing that the National Institutes of Health is funding, but a large organization like the NIH also needs to pay attention to where the different institutes and centers within it are investing. So it allows for better coordination of investments and research if you have a strong sense of where the different stakeholders are putting their time and effort.
We also focus a lot on transparency and reproducibility of results. In this case, it is not just the reproducibility of specific scientific studies, but findings from assessments of the impact of different programs or the need for new initiatives based on the research landscape. Because that’s an important factor influencing how research investments are going to be made. We can also start to identify where there are emerging areas of research. Maybe there’s a need to launch a new initiative, if you are a funder, or create a new journal, if you are a publisher.
Another very common use for the software is to identify experts in the field based on their research activity, publications, grants, patents, etc. This can be for a host of different reasons including reviewers for grant applications and manuscripts.
All of these kinds of decisions can be greatly informed through the use of our databases and software.
Q: So, say I’m a society looking to launch a new journal. How would I actually use the database to decide where my investment will have the most impact?
A: One method would be to enter a subject search term into the database, like on Google or any other search engine. Say you enter “Sickle Cell disease.” You’ll get the results in a ranked order with a score that tells you how relevant each of the results is to your query. You’d be able to see the grants for Sickle Cell, but also the publications, patents, clinical trials, and a lot of other bits of information that inform what’s happening in the field. You can drill down in that data to look at the translational research pathway from basic to clinical research, and you can also see all of the international funding. It really gives you the full landscape of how much is being invested in that area. It’s important to note that the query does not have to be as general as a disease area, and we regularly work with clients to create very custom queries. For example, a query to assess the volume of research focused on a specific gene or target.
Q: ÜberResearch is a fairly young company. Do you find that people are using the database?
A: We are a small company, we started just three years ago, but already we’ve worked with many of the large agencies in this space. Which I think for me validates the usefulness of the data that we are collecting and the approach that we are taking.
Q: I know that Wiley uses the ÜberResearch database to help our society partners with strategic portfolio development. If you don’t partner with Wiley, how can you get access to your offerings?
A: ÜberResearch offers a range of different solutions and not just a single software package, so there are several ways to engage. Most clients work with us by purchasing subscriptions to our software. That typically comes with training and support to inform the best strategies that fit within their current workflow.
We also offer a range of functionality to clean, categorize and enhance data, as well as APIs to deliver our content. Some clients also leverage custom implementations and custom software development.
For some of our larger clients, we also offer service contracts which take advantage of our infrastructure, and we also support them in actually carrying out the analyses.
Q: It sounds like you’re working on some truly innovative things. Thanks again for speaking with us!
A: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
For more information about the tools we discussed, visit www.uberresearch.com
Image credit: Duane Williams