IBM, University of Rhode Island Partner to Improve Academic Research

Social media, cloud computing to help scientists collaborate with others around world

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ARMONK, N.Y. and KINGSTON, R.I., - 18 May 2011: IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the University of Rhode Island today announced they are collaborating to help University researchers use analytics and social networking tools to more easily find funding opportunities; identify collaborators around the world; and locate the latest published research findings in their fields.

The collaborative research effort with IBM and URI's College of Pharmacy is a "First-of-a-Kind" (FOAK) project based on a patented IBM invention aimed at helping academic researchers quickly find the resources they need to better plan, manage and measure the progress of their research projects.  The college, for example, is managing a $42 million federal biomedical science research program, and needs fast, reliable information on scientists and their work.

"This IBM-URI College of Pharmacy project holds promise for accelerating the process of locating research support opportunities, forming winning research teams and efficiently collaborating in the creation of research funding proposals," said Ronald P. Jordan, dean of URI's College of Pharmacy. "The rate of change we are experiencing in scientific discovery and processes, which support academic research, is exponential. This technology gives us the opportunity to not only keep pace, but potentially further advance it, to the advantage of the University and our state. I'm grateful that IBM gave our college a chance to participate in the early stages of developing this work."

Under the collaboration, the IBM and URI teams are working to apply IBM's data analytics, cloud computing technologies, social networking, and optimization software to tap into of URI's knowledge of the academic research experience and develop a solution that can help educational institutions manage their projects in a cost-effective manner that meets their scientific and university-wide goals.

The social media application will provide scientists with their own profile pages, which will allow them to connect easily with collaborators and others with interest in the research.  Once the initial data is entered, the system will "crawl" for information and automatically suggest and download contact information on researchers in the field; recommend potential collaborations; and provide data on grant opportunities and journal publications.

"One of the goals of the URI-IBM project is to use information technology to link researchers with similar specialties to strengthen the bioinformatics focus area at URI and around the state," said Daniel Udwary, URI assistant professor of pharmacy. "You would think that in a small state like Rhode Island, this would be relatively easy. But it can be a very difficult task. Even in our own college, it is difficult for administrators and faculty to be aware of all of the research projects being done."

IBM chose URI for the FOAK project because of a shared commitment to research and innovation.  URI will get the first access to the technology, and IBM will gain knowledge about how it can be advanced by learning how it is used at the University.

"IBM and URI recognize that guiding a research project from start-to-finish is a labor-intensive, time- and resource-consuming process for most universities," said Carl Osipov, chief architect for IBM Academic Research Solutions. "This project will help academic researchers overcome the challenges they face in coordinating and completing their projects.  As more and more data and publications are introduced around the world, it is getting harder and harder to find the specific information that could be of help to a researcher.  This system addresses that growing need."

A range of IBM software technology will be used in the project, including IBM Content Analytics software, which can crawl the Web to discover relevant data from research publications, grant awards, term papers, etc. The information identified will be stored in a data warehouse with the University's data, such as student transcripts, academic expert details and papers, and grant information.  IBM's analytics software will analyze the content and then optimization software will be applied to recommend assignment of resources, such as potential collaborators and student assistants, for research projects. Finally, IBM social networking software, Lotus Connections, will provide an interface and forum to display and exchange information about the potential areas of research interest.

The IBM-URI project is based on a patented IBM inventionU.S. Patent #7516142:  System, Method and  Program Product for Optimizing a Research and Grant Portfolio—which describes a method, system, and program for tracking available grants, available researchers and their skills, as well as available equipment and other materials, and then matches up the people, projects and resources in an ordered and disciplined process.

For more information about IBM's FOAK program, visit:  

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