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GIR Member Viewpoint - November 2010

Dynamic Support for Dynamic Challenges

Using Collexis to support the University of Michigan Medical School Faculty, Administration and Research Missions

Mary Hill, Research Project Manager
University of Michigan Medical School

In November of 2008, the University of Michigan Medical School began a relationship with Collexis, a leader in researcher expert profiling systems, to provide a Research Profiles Web site for faculty researchers at the school. Collexis is known for software that mines text and performs detailed analyses of entire document collections. Given any textual data and an ontology, they can provide a “fingerprint” for that data. Collexis has applied this expertise on the PubMed publication repository and the Medical Subject Heading ontology (MESH), developing expertise profiles for researchers.  Based on rules such as name and fingerprint, Collexis is able to group publications under a researcher. An ID, called a BioMed Expert ID (BMEID), is then assigned to the researcher. Collexis also provides tools to allow clean-up of the publications associated with a BMEID, for example, to add publications that are missing.

The Medical School wanted to better understand their research expertise and have a non-financial method to view faculty, and the Research Profiles web site provides this. On a quarterly basis, the school provides a list of faculty to Collexis. New faculty are assigned BMEIDs which are also mapped to the school’s faculty employee identifier for use in later analyses. When necessary, associated publications can be cleaned by either Collexis or by the school using the Collexis disambiguation tools. An added benefit is that this process requires little or no faculty input. The school’s first release of the site was in June 2009 and both faculty and school administration have been pleased with the benefits received.

Research Profiles provides many benefits for many types of users. Administrative users can view publications counts and expertise by faculty and department. Citation counts for individual publications are provided, as well as the H-Index for a faculty. It has been used to target particular faculty for grant notices or for funding requests, and to connect faculty to sponsors. Departments are able to link to the Research Profiles site from their own faculty profile sites. Faculty have found the site useful to see how their expertise appears and to look for collaborators. It also makes their administrative lives easier by helping to track their publications and citations. Another powerful benefit is faculty can discover new relationships and areas of study by linking from their expertise to other related experts and their areas of study. Students also use the website to help them find mentors and potential research areas to focus on.

Another powerful function provided by Collexis is the ability to download the expertise and publication data from their data stores using web services. This gives us the ability to use the data elsewhere and to do research analysis we would otherwise not be able to perform.

This data has been extremely useful to many of the Medical School missions. For the administrative mission the publication information has been used in promotional materials for both the school and departments. The expertise information has been used in the hiring process to determine if a new faculty will be a good fit. Departments are also able to easily see who is publishing, who is not, and in what the top journals their publications are appearing. For the researcher mission, the data has been used to analyze the school’s expertise to help understand where we should invest, who our top collaborators are and what impact we are having globally.

Other creative uses have been found for the data. The University of Michigan recently purchased vacated Pfizer space in Ann Arbor. The Research Profiles data is being used to take a new approach to assigning space by locating researchers with similar focus or who are potential collaborators near each other. This will allow a more multi-disciplinary approach instead of assigning space by department.

The data has also been used to validate the existence of interdisciplinary Centers. Centers should see a natural mapping around Center faculty and their expertise. We have also used the mapping data to investigate where new Centers could be developed.

In June 2010, Collexis was acquired by Elsevier, aleading global publisher of scientific, technical, and medical information products and services. At the University of Michigan we were excited because of the ability to expand our research profiles to include other publications from Elsevier’s SCOPUS database. In addition, we continue to collaborate with Collexis to develop metrics and strategies to improve the research enterprise at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Member Viewpoints

Featured in issues of the GIR Newsletter and the GIR website, these articles are contributed by GIR representatives on current IT-related issues, challenge solutions, and technological innovations in academic medical institutions.