Sparrho applauds Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s acquisition of Meta
Yesterday’s news that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $45 billion foundation is acquiring research discovery platform Meta — in the foundation’s first ever acquisition — is a testament to the vital importance of improving access to science. At Sparrho, we share the same commitment as we pursue our vision of democratising science.
We live in an age where the volume of research papers published in any given field far outstrips the ability of any specialist in that field to read them — where scientific research remains gated to most in society, except those granted licenses in academia and industrial R&D. The Internet’s near limitless access to information has simultaneously emphasised, disrupted, and undermined the value of true expertise.
Collaboration in this new landscape will be key, so the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s acquisition of Meta heralds a great step forward in many ways. Speaking of the acquisition, I was heartened to read Meta’s CEO and Co-founder Sam Molyneux restate his company’s core commitment to improving the scientific community’s access to research and thereby increasing the speed of innovation: “Helping scientists will produce a virtuous cycle, as they develop new tools that in turn unlock additional opportunities for faster advancement.”
While creating tools to help scientists find the right research is no doubt vital, we believe that the greatest hurdle to democratising science is still unlocking access to and improving understanding of fundamental research for the wider society. When it comes to discovery tools, Sparrho found that a blend of artificial intelligence and expert human curation delivers a more nuanced and reliable result than search based on machine learning alone.
With our database of over 48 million individual pieces of research across all fields of science, we enable our users to search for content from over 45,000 scientific journals and preprint servers, empowering them to create and share pinboards of the science that matters to them. Over 650,000 scientific pins were made on the Sparrho platform in less than a year — it’s clear that the passion to find, curate and share scientific content in a community-generated way is present and growing, providing a new way for science and society to foster mutual understanding.
We also know from our users based in more than 150 countries, that hunger for science knows no boundaries. Our users — who have been using our platform for free since our founding — include researchers, journalists and academics, but also tens of thousands of citizen scientists. Some are driven by personal interest in a cause such as space travel, or curiosity in a particular field such as autonomous vehicles. Others however are driven by necessity as they seek peer-reviewed information on medical conditions for themselves or their loved ones. Indeed, our most popular ever pinboards are on the topic of the Zika Virus and travelling to Mars.
Our mission has always been to maximise opportunities for collaboration between different scientific disciplines and communities by maximising the breadth and depth of the scientific content and discussion on Sparrho’s platform. With the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s first acquisition, we welcome this new age of commitment to fostering collaboration in science. Only through collaboration can we truly democratise science and together meet the challenges and opportunities that face us globally.
— Vivian Chan, PhD, 24th January 2017
CEO & Co-Founder, Sparrho