November 7, 2010

USDA Adopts Scientist Networking Site

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Created by Cornellians, VIVO, the online networking site for scientific researchers, has now been officially adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. VIVO provides access to the discoveries, activities and research interests of individuals from a network of scientists within the institution. Cornell’s VIVO covers all disciplines of research at the University. VIVO includes all faculty and other academics from Cornell, such as research associates and postdoctorates. Information within VIVO can be imported from a number of Cornell systems.Last month, the USDA became the first federal organization to make use of VIVO. According to VIVO Information Technologies Lead Jon Corson-Rikert, the USDA will be using VIVO to make federal agriculture research, as well as scientist collaboration and networking, quicker and more efficient. With the USDA coming aboard, VIVO developers are able to get the federal government involved in making government more accessible to people. According to VIVO Project Lead Elly Cramer, the idea for VIVO first began in 2003 and was first launched in 2005.VIVO is different in that it uses the Semantic Web, a new form of information organization designed explicitly for the discovery and exchange of machine-readable data on the Web, according to Corson-Rikert. Most websites give users the ability to move from one site to another by clicking on relevant links. The Semantic Web, however, lessens the burden and time of trial and error link clicking. It manages and shares the content found in other websites’ search engines as data in a common format identified by common types and relationships. This allows VIVO users to focus on the connections between people, whether direct or through their affiliations or research outputs, while also enabling VIVO content to be indexed by search engines in other websites. Despite its success, VIVO developers are still working to gain and provide public access to as many scientific publications as possible, according to Cramer. However, some publications are generally maintained by faculty members in Microsoft Word documents, individual web pages or department listings that are frequently out of date and are rarely available in forms readable and transferable by current computer systems, Corson-Rikert said.Initially, VIVO was meant to address information discovery needs at Cornell, according to Corson-Rikert. Unlike most uniaged by and reflect the administrative organization of the university, VIVO provides access based on areas of interest and research activities. In September of 2009, Cornell was awarded the National Institute of Health Grant through a consortium centered at the University of Florida. This major grant allowed Cornell to extend the VIVO system to six additional institutions and demonstrate its potential value as a national research networking tool, according to Corson-Rikert.The five other consortium schools are Indiana University, Ponce School of Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Weill Cornell Medical College.Outside of the Cornell VIVO project, more than a dozen other U.S. universities, three Australian universities, and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences are in the process of implementing the VIVO system.Currently, developers are continuing to work on establishing a national VIVO system. The first national search prototypes are still not in official production. However, the VIVO national website provides access to related press releases. “We want to create a vibrant open-source community for VIVO and to see it widely adopted as a tool to facilitate academic research discovery and to help students and professionals find opportunities for studying and collaboration through a tool as easy to use as Google,” said Corson-Rikert.

Original Author: Elaine Lin