August 15, 2011 | 11
I just got back from this year’s SciFoo conference at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. It was a great opportunity to discuss ways to improve science with some of the brightest minds in the field. I took the chance to lead a session on my latest passion: how outsourcing is going to revolutionize scientific research over the next 5 years.
I got interested in science outsourcing because of a particular challenge I faced in my research (although I suspect many of you have faced the same challenge). Last year my research hit a roadblock when I needed to conduct experiments that were completely out of my field of expertise (immunology experiments in my case). After exhausting my personal connections I realized I needed to look externally to find someone to provide these experiments for me.
What followed was an entirely frustrating process of googling key words to try to find providers; emailing or calling dozens of labs to understand the outsourcing process, their pricing and turnaround time; attempting to compare and evaluate different providers with a complete absence of user feedback and reviews. And even when I found a provider I wanted to work with I had to pay on my personal credit card because providers were so frustrated by the speed at which universities paid them that they refused to accept my university’s purchase order.
Over the following months I shared my experience with scientists at conferences throughout the US and was overwhelmed by the level of frustration shared by others. This was clearly a big problem. But it wasn’t just scientists. At the recent Department of Defense Era of Hope conference in Orlando I spoke to many breast cancer advocates, women who have survived breast cancer and now devote their time and energy to raising money to support our research. These advocates are passionate about what we do but are also frustrated at the lack of collaboration in scientific research and the lack of progress despite immense spending. They believe, as do I, that there must be a better way to get scientists working together.
Outsourcing revolutionized the IT industry in the 1990s and 2000s and I believe outsourcing has the potential to revolutionize scientific research in the same way. But currently outsourcing in science is extremely difficult. It’s hard to find providers, time consuming to communicate with
them, hard to evaluate them and hard to pay them. Other industries have solved these barriers by creating a marketplace. I decided to do the same for science by creating a marketplace for outsourcing scientific experiments: ScienceExchange.com (Twitter).
Science Exchange makes outsourcing easy – we have just launched and are now looking to help more researchers find and collaborate with relevant researchers. Just think of how many more discoveries can be made when scientists are able to easily tap into the best resources. That’s what gets me excited!