Preface: We asked Paul from Global Campus how researchers are being found, and learned about the power of semantic search to connect experts with the people trying to find them. Through Global Campus, an AI platform that looks through the entirety of published works to find a match for your input text or abstract, universities are scouting for talent, granting agencies are looking for conflicts of interest, and soon, scientists will be using it to look for collaborators and journals for their manuscripts. This interview is part of our ongoing series introducing some of the tools and services that are being developed to help support your research!
Can you tell us about yourself and what led you to create Global Campus?
I have a background in innovation sciences and after graduating I started a company, IDfuse, to help researchers create societal impact with their work, more than just publishing their findings in an academic journal. Coincidentally, this was also the time when both universities and funding policy began to focus more on societal implications of research, on taking some responsibility as an academic to make sure that one’s insights, findings, and data find its way to the actors in society that can use it.
We also had the ambition to help the other way around; to help society connect with science and academia. With the launch of openAlex as an open-source database for academic publications, we figured out how to help people find relevant academic experts for whatever they need expertise in, and this led to the creation of Global Campus. We soon realized that our ambition to connect society with academia led to a platform that was really useful within academia.
Global Campus connects researchers with those searching for them, but how does it find a researcher to suggest?
Global Campus searches using a semantic algorithm, which is really good at matching thematic texts because it can sort of understand what a text is about. Instead of using keywords, you can search by pasting in an abstract of your publication, grant application, or a few sentences about a topic that you’re considering to work in. This is used to search through all academic research publications out there via openAlex. The semantic algorithm takes the context of your input into account, which leads to better matches. This is because we’re not just matching on keyword overlap but the actual meaning of the words, compared with titles and abstracts of publications. We strongly believe that we should use as much information as possible in matching, so we’re not throwing away data by categorizing publications into buckets about, for example, solar energy or wind energy, but really use the meaning of a publication.
For suggesting a researcher; if you search in Global Campus with a description of something specifically in, for instance, renewable energy, we can match it with people who have publications on that specific topic. From the search input it will look through research papers, literature reviews, or for example if someone received public funding from a program like Horizon Europe, the information from the European portal, to find a specific match. It’s very unlikely that a search for researchers working with energy plasma cells will find any results related to plasma or cells within your body because it’s a different concept, and our matching algorithm understands that because of context from the other sentences.
Can you tell us a bit about what sorts of organizations are searching with Global Campus to find researchers?
A large part of Global Campus development was done together with an organization called Academic Transfer, a membership organization for universities in the Netherlands for discussing academic job-related issues like vacancies or recruitment. So the first people using Global Campus were university recruiters, and this is now also the largest group of people currently using Global Campus. If there’s an academic vacancy for a postdoc or assistant professor position, these recruiters are using Global Campus to find researchers they can invite to apply for a job, because we can give them a specific match based on what people publish and what their expertise is.
Talking with recruiters led us to realize that within universities there are a lot of opportunities to use Global Campus. For instance, research offices are also quite enthusiastic to use it in finding potential partners for collaborative grants. Some larger research universities use Global Campus to scout internally for researchers working on specific topics who can be invited to collaborate on the strategic theme of the university. You can imagine you can do the same with policy documents, policy texts, funding texts, or description of a thematic funding opportunity.
Additionally, because we match on the basis of content overlap, Global Campus also works really well in finding potential reviewers for peer review, or to evaluate grant applications.
Can researchers use Global Campus to find reviewers or collaborators for their own grants and papers?
We do see the potential for researchers using it themselves. Currently, we are talking with grants support and library services of pilot institutions to negotiate campus licenses, so that everyone with an account at these institutions can log in and use Global Campus. That way students and researchers can find relevant academic works, relevant journals for submitting their manuscripts, and even other researchers working on a particular topic. So if people are very curious about Global Campus they’re of course welcome to buy an individual account, but we recommend talking to their university library services to tell them Global Campus is something they would like to use.
Global Campus creates networks of collaborators and identifies potential conflicts of interest. Do you know if this has been used or is being adopted by grant or funding agencies?
This past summer we had a funding agency as a development partner who was very interested in working with Global Campus to identify collaborative networks and find potential conflicts of interest, so I would say this is very important to funding agencies. There are solutions for this already out there, for instance from publishers, but from speaking to funders, yes, this is a function that is very important to them.
What is your vision for the future of Global Campus?
As many, we believe that the scientific community should be easier to search, and we want to reduce the difficulty in finding what you’re looking for and make it more intuitive to connect with the relevant people. Currently there’s so much data available in so many places, which presents a barrier to finding relevant people and information. It can take quite some time to find the right combination of keywords and filters to narrow down search results. That’s why we’re using semantic search, to make it less time-intensive and more specific to find relevant researchers, publications, and journals, but in the future also funded research projects and organizations involved in research projects.
We incorporated only in December, so Global Campus is a very young platform, and I think the biggest challenge for us is to connect and make information accessible in a way that makes sense and is most useful for academia. Because potentially we can also connect patent data, policy documents and much more—in theory it’s all possible. But our idea is to make the global knowledge base more accessible and searchable for people working with academia—that’s why it’s called Global Campus!
We would like to thank Paul for sharing his insight!