If your name is Borya Shakhnovich, people tend to make assumptions about you. One, they don’t want to play you in competitive chess. Two, they wouldn’t be terribly surprised if you introduced yourself by saying something like, “I am scientist.”
OK, I’m stereotyping here (a real time-saver, I know), but at least one of those assumptions has some basis in fact. Shakhnovich is the founder and CEO of Brookline, MA-based iAMscientist, a global community and resource site for researchers and institutions in science, technology, and medicine. He has raised $1 million in seed financing from angel investors including George Whitesides, the famed Harvard University chemist and co-founder of more than a dozen companies including Genzyme (which was acquired last week by Sanofi-Aventis for some $20 billion).
What iAMscientist does is give researchers and institutions some interesting new tools to connect with each other. The idea is to create an online community and directory of top-tier people so that research teams, companies, and other organizations can find the right person to answer a difficult question, decipher a new paper, or lead a research project. All of this is especially important for interdisciplinary ventures—like when biologists team up with physicists, computer scientists, or electrical engineers to model things like genetic pathways or disease mechanisms, and then someone wants to commercialize the findings.
“We provide an organization with the ability to find that one person who is the foremost expert in an obscure area—our value is in that matching mechanism,” Shakhnovich says. Some of the most valuable knowledge and experience that researchers have “isn’t really in their papers, it’s in their heads,” he says. “You want to get in touch with them and maintain a relationship.”
Academic social networks are not new, of course. Services like Academia.edu, Epernicus (Boston-based), Labmeeting (founded by a Harvard grad), Nature Network, Pronetos, ResearchGate (which started in Boston but recently moved to Germany), and, to some extent, LinkedIn, all help … Next Page »