Research Networks: Matching Businesses and Partners
By Jennifer Burnett, Program Manager, Fiscal and Economic Development Policy
States often compete intensively to attract firms in emerging high-tech or science-focused industries. If leaders can successfully craft policies that entice those industries to relocate or expand in their state, it can mean better jobs and greater prosperity for residents.
One obstacle for policymakers, though, is finding a way to link the significant human capital and expertise in state universities and research institutions with private sector companies looking for those same resources. That’s where research networking comes in.
“From an economic development perspective, research networking systems help enable collaboration between the academic and industry sectors in a highly effective manner,” said Daniel Calto, director of Solution Services for Institutional Markets, Academic and Governments at Reed Elsevier, a global provider of professional information solutions. “They allow any system user to quickly find the right partners, ones with the requisite skill and knowledge to collaborate on a specific project.”
SciVal Experts is one research networking solution used by a number of academic and government institutions. It pulls together information about academic researchers and experts to create a searchable and comprehensive picture of organizational expertise across a number of institutions.
“These systems turn what is currently an ad hoc and disorganized process, namely seeking experts outside of your direct area of expertise, into a more systematic and reliable one,” Calto said. “The larger these research networks become, the greater value they have—the network effect in action.”
REACH NC—a multi-institutional research networking portal featuring more than 8,900 researchers from 19 North Carolina universities and research institutions—is an example of how research networking systems can work across an entire state.
“REACH NC is a statewide project that allows North Carolina to tap into its own vast pool of experts and resources,” said REACH NC Executive Director Sharlini Sankaran. “Until REACH NC, researchers, administrators, business leaders, and others trying to find experts and assets or to assess the state’s expertise and capabilities in a field had to depend on their own social networks or pore through multiple online systems—a process that could take days, even weeks.”
According to Sankaran, REACH NC has reduced this search time to minutes by making available detailed information about faculty expertise—such as publications, grants, patents, collaborative partners and other data. This kind of information helps faculty members, university administrators, the business community, economic developers and the general public locate expertise in a particular subject area resides.
“Our goals are to increase transparency of research activity and capabilities across the state and to provide opportunities for those inside and outside academia to access researcher expertise and assets easily,” said Sankaran. “The uniqueness of REACH NC lies in the partnership of public and private universities and research institutes to make the portal and REACH NC brand and mission a truly statewide effort.”
The Council of State Governments will offer a free webinar about research networking—“Private Sector, University and Government Collaboration: Partnerships for Statewide Economic Development”—from 1 to 2 p.m. Nov. 13. Calto of Reed Elsevier and Sankaran of REACH NC will be among the speakers.