New Online Tool Designed To Promote Collaborations Among Yale Researchers

Yale scientists and researchers now have a comprehensive online tool they can use to share and discuss research projects, data, lab protocols, results, news of clinical trials and advances in clinical care.

It is called the YCCI Research Accelerator (RA), and is a collaborative effort of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, a School of Medicine physician who specializes in asthma, and a journalist who understands the challenges of scientific collaboration and wants to find a way to promote such partnerships.

Yale is the first institution to have full access to this type of instrument for scientific collaboration and resource sharing. The site is secure, password-protected and free to all Yale users.

The RA is the brainchild of Steven Greenberg of Westport, Connecticut, and his longtime friend Dr. Geoffrey Chupp, associate professor of pulmonary and critical care at Yale School of Medicine.

"Geoff and I were talking about the challenges of scientific research and his interest in utilizing technology to enhance collaboration," says Greenberg, who has served as both an attorney and a journalist. "He saw the need for a simple and secure way to access relevant data and resources."

Greenberg is also the creator of "Jobs4.0," an online "employment agency" designed to help people over age 40 find meaningful work in a tough economy. He and Chupp spent two years building and testing the RA technology to make sure it was efficient and would easily enable interdisciplinary sharing.

"We spoke to dozens of researchers and clinicians, from lab assistants to department chairs, to make the platform as valuable as possible to the entire Yale scientific community," says Chupp.

The RA uses a novel system called "data driven collaboration" to quickly and easily identify potential research partners, Chupp explains. "Other software programs allow researchers to easily find published papers or biographical information, but we wanted to create the first-ever platform that identifies potential collaborators on the basis of a mutual interest in the substance of the data or reagents, not on purely social factors."

Chupp and Greenberg then approached YCCI's director, Dr. Robert Sherwin, chief of the Section of Endocrinology at Yale School of Medicine. Sherwin is respected worldwide for his work in diabetes and for a career that has focused on translational and interdisciplinary research.

"We presented our site to Dr. Sherwin because we felt that the goals of YCCI and Yale's Clinical and Translational Science Award — collaboration, breaking down barriers and resource sharing — were remarkably well aligned with the focus of our new platform," notes Greenberg.

Sherwin provided support that allowed Greenberg and Chupp to implement a customized version of the Research Accelerator at Yale. "Our goal is to more effectively link scientists across the Yale campus to promote new interdisciplinary research collaborations," Sherwin says.

Greenberg notes there is great flexibility built into the website, so that each scientist can use it in his or her own way. For example, some might choose to post their reagents or their entire abstracts. Others might simply use it to find Yale colleagues who share an interest in a particular gene or other research topic. Each scientist can choose his or her own level of disclosure; not all information needs to be posted.

But for the site to be valuable to members of the Yale community, Greenberg says, scientists need to use it to log on and post data. He and Chupp are inviting all Yale researchers who wish to participate to post data and resources now.

"A cancer researcher studying a particular gene has no systematic way of finding other researchers, say in immunology, asthma or even botany, that might be studying the same gene," Greenberg says. "The YCCI Research Accelerator is designed to facilitate those potentially rewarding collaborations."

To become a registered user of the website, visit www.ycci.researchaccelerator.org.

— By Helen Dodson