On September 8, 2009, one of our Visionaries, Tim Ingoldsby, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the American Institute of Physics, launched a pioneering new Web site, AIP UniPHY (aipuniphy.org). Tim billed it as a first-of-its-kind scientific networking platform for physical scientists. 180,000 physical scientists from 100 countries can now easily see all of their colleagues as well as their competitors in any field of research. They can find the top experts in each field and see what relationships each person has with others in their fields or in other disciplines.
The site makes explicit the previously hidden network of colleagues and competitors who are working in all of the sub-disciplines of physics. Here’s how it works: AIP “built” the social network by taking the database of all of the journal articles and papers that physicists have published in 100 leading physics journals by AIP’s member societies (and other publishers) in the past 30 years as well as approximately 100,000 papers from scientific conferences.
Each paper is typically authored by several colleagues, who may be working in different universities, research institutions, or companies. This database of authors and co-authors and papers with topics and metadata is then “munged” by Collexis Holdings’ semantic fingerprinting technology to produce a graphical network showing all the linkages among all of these scientists and the topics they research. In addition to exploring graphically, you can also find experts by topic, by geography, by institution, or using a combination of criteria. Once you locate the people you are interested in, you can add them to “your network.” UniPHY pre-populates the profiles for each of its 180,000 scientists based on the published information with their titles, institutions, and so on. As they log into the site, they can update their profiles with photos and other information.
it is possible to invite someone to join (whether or not they have a profile), but people cannot be added yet. And it remains to be seen whether the people you want in your network will agree to BE in your network, e.g., to actually communicate with you. But the site was designed with the input from 100 scientists, and the initial feedback from physicists has been very positive, Tim reports. He points out that everyone cares a lot about their reputation in the field. Their published papers are a big part of the image they present to the world and to their colleagues. Having a single place where you can see everything that each person has published, and see all the collaborations they’ve engaged in, amplifies each physicist’s cachet. UniPHY will also make it easier for scientists to connect directly with people with whom they may want to collaborate in future research.
My reaction to AIP UniPHY is that it is a brilliant way to provide high value to physical scientists and to make it easy for them to accelerate cross-disciplinary collaboration. Hats off to Tim and his team, which included Terry Hulbert, Director of Business Development, and Mark Cassar, Publisher, Journals and Technical Publications, as well as Lori Carlin, Director of Marketing & Fulfillment, who also made contributions to the design and copy.