“The long list of articles is totally annoying,” writes one early-access user. “At minimum I would add collapse buttons to all sections on this page.”
The provider agrees. “I’ll fix the long list of articles and shorten it to 20 with an expand option — shouldn’t take too long,” he replies. By the end of the week, the change was made.
This is a typical exchange in the run up to this month’s public beta launch of SciLink, a new social networking site aimed at scientists. The website is the brainchild of Brian Gilman, who previously ran the functional genomics informatics group for what is now the Broad Institute and has spent the past three and a half years heading up his own consulting firm called Panther Informatics. (Full disclosure: Gilman has been a guest columnist for GT’s informatics column.)
“We were writing an application to do some processing of Medline, and I stumbled upon social networking and saw that there was a natural social network in the Medline corpus,” Gilman says. It seemed like a natural network: scientists publish together, forming webs of colleagues and potential collaborators. If this sounds like LinkedIn or ZoomInfo, you’ve got the right idea — what SciLink adds to the mix is a focus on scientific content that Gilman says can’t be found elsewhere.
Gilman pitched the idea to friends at a poker game — a mix of scientists and business people — “and everybody loved it,” he says. Prodding the idea from a business angle only added to his interest.
Now, five people work under the auspices of what came to be called SciLink, where Gilman serves as CEO. “We actually have compiled 6 million resumes for scientists,” he says. Those profiles are converted into what Gilman calls “a statistical entity” — a framework, à la Amazon, that enables content to be routed to those profiled scientists in the form of recommendations. That content includes “other people in the network that you might want to collaborate with or know, funding opportunities that you might want to apply for, articles, … job opportunities, and conferences that you might want to attend,” Gilman says.
Up next: the SciLink team is working on a utility to cull databases and use profiles to build and update a user’s personal, NIH-ready biosketch. “One of the big pain points that we identified is that people hate to keep their biosketch in working order,” Gilman notes. This function will be available in future versions of SciLink for a small fee (most of SciLink’s utilities will be free to use).
While the website is targeted at scientists, Gilman expects to see revenue from recruiters and HR people who will pay for the opportunity to look for talent. “We have high levels of control on how much you can bother one of our users,” he says, noting that users who are not in the market for a job are virtually inaccessible to recruiters. But if you are a job seeker, “we route [your] profile to the recruiter pretty strongly,” he says. Other potential sources of revenue are advertising and working with conference organizers, Gilman says.
The site is currently targeted at life scientists, but the team is working to add scientists from other realms and aims to get into the clinical arena as well. Gilman encourages scientists to check out SciLink and let him know what they think. “We have a great feedback mechanism. We’re very open to suggestions and to adding additional features,” he says. Check it out at scilink.com.