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Database will reveal New Jersey’s research assets to fuel innovation

State and universities are working with Elsevier to build a research asset database for businesses, funding agencies and the public

Image © istock.com/SolStock
Image © istock.com/SolStock

New Jersey has embarked on a project that should bolster its position as hotbed of innovation, drawing on the research and development happening across five of its large universities.

Tapping into Elsevier’s research information management expertise and breadth of bibliometric data, the project will soon provide a comprehensive window onto the state’s research assets. That will give potential businesses, funders, existing industry bodies, and the public a comprehensive overview of the research expertise and capabilities available in the region.

Eli Khazzam“Our motivation is really to stimulate an innovation ecosystem here in New Jersey for our STEM industries,” explained Eli Khazzam, State Project Director for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. “You have Silicon Valley, the research triangle – these places are known for their culture of entrepreneurship. We want to make people aware that we have so much here in the state of New Jersey that businesses don’t know about. We want them to think, ‘Hey, why are we moving out to Silicon Valley when we have – for example – great biotech researchers in the state.”

‘A database to accelerate innovation’

To do that, the state needed a tool that could create awareness for such businesses – whether they’re thinking of setting up or are already in New Jersey and want to accelerate their innovation. Working together, the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) set about creating the Research Asset Database (RAD).

To steer the project, a board was set up including industry representatives from the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, Choose New Jersey, BioNJ, the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey, the Research and Development Council of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Tech Council. OSHE and EDA will serve as staff to the Board, as well as representatives from the five pilot universities: Princeton; Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Rowan University; and the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Research assets can mean people, labs and lab equipment as well as scholarly literature, research, and intellectual property and funding sources for research. For a business that’s thinking of setting up in New Jersey, that’s crucial information for making a decision, Khazzam explained:

A business might say, ‘We’re thinking of setting up in New Jersey, but we need experts in a particular kind of life science research.’ What this database will do is allow visitors to find those individuals to see what they’ve published, who they’ve worked with, what university they work at, and to establish that there’s a valuable connection they can set up.

To power that database, OSHE and EDA needed data – lots of high quality researcher-level data. Given that this public portal will reflect the expertise of universities and researchers – and therefore reflect on their reputation – the quality of data, accurate representation, and full buy-in from academics were all of critical importance. Also, they wanted a system that could be up in running in a reasonable time – no wasting of taxpayer money on endless system development. For these reasons, they chose Elsevier, which has a track record of building similar portals for academia, government and industry around the world. This database will use Pure (market leader in research information management systems), Scopus (the largest abstract and citation database of research information, with more than 70 million articles, books and conference papers) and the Profile Refinement Service, which combine Scopus data with manual curation to ensure that author information in Pure is accurate and up to date.

'Powerful and flexible'

The solution Elsevier designed for New Jersey is powerful and flexible. Pure is implemented at each university, allowing for integration at campus level with other systems, and university level curation and control of all data. The various Pure implementations then feed a central New Jersey system that aggregates and deduplicates the information for display in the New Jersey research assets portal, based on the Pure Portal offering.

An additional advantage of deploying Pure at campus level, is that each university has full access to the power of Pure to support decision making, reporting or university-level showcasing of researchers.

JC Heyneke, SVP of Product Management for Pure, explained how that translates to the RAD:

If you take people as an example, they’re the key research asset the state will have. A business would want to find the right researcher to partner with, but this is quite difficult today; actual problems are often multidisciplinary and don’t neatly fit into a particular university school or department. And universities are vast enterprises, making it difficult to have a complete overview of who is doing research on what. We can facilitate expertise discovery by building accurate researcher profiles based on their actual research outputs, and by making it easy to search for the right profile through a combination of easy browsing, powerful searching and applying natural language processing (or fingerprinting technology) to help pinpoint a specific expertise match.

Elsevier starts building the researcher profiles by leveraging Scopus data of researchers’ published articles, books and conference proceedings, using the Profile Refinement Service to ensure high-quality, disambiguated profiles, JC explained. These profiles can then be enhanced by adding additional available information – like other types of researcher outputs, activities, prizes they’ve won, media mentions and projects they’re currently working. Pure, a powerful, open system deployed at the university level, allows for controlled integration with other sources of researcher activity and outputs.

“Pure was a key reason we selected working with  Elsevier,” Khazzam said. “Having an off-the-shelf, mature product reduced costs and didn’t require a whole lot of customization.

“The other reason was the content archives and databases the company owned. We saw how over the last two decades, Elsevier had become much more involved in technology and building databases like this, and the experience it had in building portals such as this one in other countries – for universities and in the private sector. They had the content and they had the technology.”

Bringing together assets from industry, government and academia

The aim with this ambitious project in the long term will be to showcase every research asset in the state of New Jersey – from industry, academia and government. The initial pilot will include those five the major research universities with representation on the board. As former Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks explained, the institutions involved will benefit from better and more visible connections with industry.

“The portal will serve as a gateway to innovation, allowing us to better market commercial ideas and products and attract more federal funds to ensure groundbreaking work can continue at our world-class institutions,” she said.

Indeed, as JC pointed out, ensuring that all parties benefit from the database is crucial to its success.

“Experience has taught us that without the full support of the universities and academics, large systems like this will struggle, so that was where we started,” he said. “We wanted to ensure each university retains control over their information that will be made public, so that they could be confident that they were being showcased in the most accurate and comprehensive way, reflecting their full expertise and key research areas.”

The New Jersey RAD is being implemented in record time for state-level systems, expecting public launch by June. At launch, the RAD will showcase New Jersey’s leading research experts and facilities, enhancing the visibility of research output, and increasing opportunities for collaboration.

“The RAD will allow New Jersey’s diverse and thriving industry sectors to better meet their strategic and research needs by providing a direct pathway to the research, experts and facilities at the state’s renowned academic institutions, which will stimulate technology-led economic development,” said former EDA CEO Melissa Orsen. “We’re confident that the New Jersey Research Asset Database will set a new standard for innovation exchange.”

About Pure’s Profile Refinement Service

Elsevier’s Profile Refinement Service (PRS) produces disambiguated Scopus author profiles based on more than 62 million records. Using a combination of algorithms and manual curation, PRS delivers Scopus author profiles into an institution’s implementation of Pure as its research information management. PRS speeds up the implementation process of Pure because the burden of gathering publication information for researcher profiles is significantly reduced.

Pure makes it easy to create, update, and correct researcher profiles by automatically retrieving publication lists from relevant internal and external databases.

Learn more about Pure.

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