This month, the state of New Jersey debuts ResearchwithNJ.com, a web portal that brings together the research and development assets of five research institutions: Princeton University, Rutgers University, Rowan University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Stevens Institute of Technology.
Spearheaded by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) along with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) – with the concept based on a recommendation by then New Jersey Business & Industry Association affiliate NJPRO Foundation in its 2010 Building Bridges report – ResearchwithNJ.com is expected to increase collaborations between business and academia, boost partnerships between institutions of higher education, increase federal funding opportunities, and, more importantly, attract national and international businesses and students to the Garden State as they respectively discover the assets New Jersey colleges and universities have to offer.
At the outset, the portal will list the names of 5,000 researchers – provided by the respective participating institutions – who concentrate on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. After two years, the state may reevaluate the database, opening it to other colleges and universities in New Jersey.
Elsevier, the global information and analytics company, which has developed similar portals for academia, industry and governments around the world, has been working on the project since July 2017. The portal is using the company’s “Pure” software platform, which aggregates an organization’s research information from numerous internal and external sources, ensuring the data is trusted, comprehensive and accessible in real time. Another Elsevier service that ties into the database is Scopus, which, according to the company, is the largest abstract database of research information, with more than 70 million articles, books and conference papers. This means that published papers (or citations or abstracts of those papers) from researchers, as well as any patents they hold, will appear with their respective names. Finally, the Elsevier platform combines Scopus data and manual curation through the company’s Profile Refinement Service.
The State Legislature authorized $1.5 million for the creation and maintenance of the database in its 2017 fiscal year budget. Besides the EDA, OSHE and the five research institutions, the project’s advisory board has also been steering the project along. It’s members include: The New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), Choose New Jersey, BioNJ, the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ), the Research and Development Council of New Jersey and the New Jersey Tech Council.
According to Eli Khazzam, state project director for the EDA, ResearchwithNJ.com will launch at this month’s Bio International Conference in Boston (being held June 4-7), where thousands of life sciences experts from around the world will gather. In July, a launch event in New Jersey will take place.
“We chose to launch at Bio International because so many of the key players from both relevant academic and corporate communities will be participating,” Khazzam says. “The conference presents a tremendous opportunity to get the word out and give attendees a chance to play with the database and get a feel for the depth and breadth of the state’s research community.”
The Portal’s Look and Feel
ResearchwithNJ.com will be the main URL for the statewide portal. According to Khazzam, the solution that Elsevier has designed is being implemented at each university, allowing for the integration of existing data systems and supporting university level curation and control of data that will feed the public portal.
Coleen Burrus, director of corporate engagement and foundation relations in the Dean for Research Office at Princeton University, explains that each research institution will have its own portal and URL, displaying the respective school’s look and feel. “We are going to make it look very similar to the state’s site, but we will have the Princeton logo and Princeton colors (orange and black) on it,” she says.
Paul Copeland, director of research & development, Office of Research and Economic Development at Rutgers University, says even though the schools will have their own URLs, everything will tie into the main portal. “That was a key selling point. Elsevier created a portal for each school that looks completely different from the EDA’s. The EDA will host a site that will have a slightly different feel to it, that will go across all five institutions,” he explains.
ResearchwithNJ.com is expected to play a vital role in increasing collaborations between academic institutions, which, in today’s environment, is more important than ever. Atam P. Dhawan, senior vice provost for research at NJIT, explains that technology today is inherently interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, “but how do you find the people and resources to collaborate? How do you match the interests and build teams who will work synergistically in order to find solutions, discover new technologies and bring them to market? That is where ResearchwithNJ.com comes in.”
Shreekanth Mandayam, PhD, vice president for research at Rowan University, says the vice presidents of the participating research institutions have always worked closely together on joint proposals. However, the new portal will allow everyone to collaborate more effectively because “everyone will have a stronger grasp at what each institution is doing. Now, every expert is going to be available on a statewide basis,” he says, adding that if a business participating in the knowledge economy wants to conduct business in New Jersey, they will see that “the knowledge is here,” thanks to the portal.
Rutgers’ Copeland says that ResearchwithNJ.com will be beneficial because, in his case, just finding out about what is going on at a large institution such as Rutgers University is difficult. “My role here as an administrator in R&D is to undertake the herculean task of getting a good sense of what the leading-edge research is at Rutgers, which is a place that is very subdivided and siloed. So, there is a real benefit to having a curated source of information about what is going on.”
Perhaps more importantly, Copeland says the portal will allow him to better discover the research that is going on at the other academic institutions in the state, and, in turn, develop partnerships. “My job at Rutgers is to help our faculty compete for federal grants. A key aspect of that is helping them build collaborations [with other institutions].”
“Everyone wants to collaborate because of the funding and business opportunities,” Mandayam adds. “And to collaborate, you need to know what talents the other person [institution] has, and you need to be able to showcase your own.”
Copeland says the portal will also be especially valuable to the private-sector companies, which can utilize the database in order to support their own R&D. “I see the database as a game changer for just the speed in which companies will be able to find out what Rutgers, or NJIT, or Stevens, for example, have in terms of the expertise businesses are looking for,” Copeland adds.
The portal, according to Dhawan, will connect the dots among all stakeholders along the technology continuum: the academic researchers, entrepreneurs, industry experts, angel investors, regulators, agencies and foundations, etc. “From university to industry to startup, the entire spectrum of research, innovation and tech transfer can be accelerated because of the information the portal will provide,” he says.
The Economic Benefits
According to EDA’s Khazzam, ResearchwithNJ.com will be a gateway drawing the brightest young students and entrepreneurs to the state, “helping us create and support new industries and foster employment opportunities.”
Burrus sees the portal as an economic development tool that will attract high-tech businesses to New Jersey. “When companies look to locate to a state, they look at its assets. When a particular industry sees that there are many academic institutions that are working in its respective sector and conducting research that is of interest to them, they are more likely going to want to locate to the area,” she explains, adding that the portal will connect the state’s research institutions with national and international industries.
Attracting Students from All Over
ResearchwithNJ.com is also expected to attract prospective students from near and far – at the undergraduate and graduate levels – to the state, as they discover who is doing what in their fields of interest. “As students explore university websites and search for materials about areas of interest to them, the portal will be a tool for them to dig down deeper on what research faculty is conducting,” Burrus explains.
According to Mandayam, the portal will be “a fantastic recruitment tool, particularly in STEM-related disciplines.” Commenting that New Jersey loses a huge number of high school students to out-of-state colleges, he says the portal will help students realize that they can stay here in New Jersey, pay in-state tuition and access world-class experts in their fields of interests.
It has taken eight years for ResearchwithNJ.com to become a reality. According to the EDA’s Khazzam, the database today falls in line with Gov. Murphy’s attempts in jumpstarting the innovation economy, a key component of his economic development plan. “This will be an online gateway that will allow New Jersey’s entrepreneurs and commercial enterprises to find experts, research and facilities at the university level that will help them build exciting new businesses and products. … In fact, this is more than just a gateway to get information. It is a dynamic community of collaborative networks, professional opportunities and news about New Jersey’s unique culture of innovation.”