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University-Industry Engagement Week

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U of Toronto activates new search tool that introduces its faculty to the world

A detailed article on the University of Toronto’s new DiscoverResearch portal and its potential to enhance industry engagement appears in the November issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here.

In a move that’s expected to enhance its already robust infrastructure for corporate engagement, sponsored research, public-private collaboration and problem solving, the University of Toronto has activated the DiscoverResearch website, populated with a growing and granular list of faculty profiles that can be accessed with a few key words and the click of a mouse.

A few years in the making, the high-tech search engine scrapes scholarly information from trusted and predesignated internet sites and automatically updates the profiles with detailed information on academic and creative works, patents, research, and leadership. The profiles also include biographical information showing a scholar’s academic and non-academic positions, education, and availability. In essence, the profiles furnish everything a potential partner needs, at least in the early stages, to make an informed decision about who they want to work with on their project, whether it’s a six-month collaboration or a long-term, strategic agreement.

Launched in June, the portal is stocked with more than 2,200 profiles and has already generated 50,000 unique visitors and over 300,000 unique views. The U of T — top 3 in the world for research citations — wants to eventually populate the portal with more than 5,000 profiles, displaying the full might of the university’s capabilities, including researchers at the affiliated hospitals in the Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network (TAHSN), and develop a set of metrics that don’t just measure the site’s traffic, but the results it generates.

Now that DiscoverResearch has been implemented, the five-year agreement with third-party provider Symplectic Elements — which constructed the site — will begin to transition into the maintenance phase as more faculty profiles and more information, like patents and IP, flow into the system.

Before undertaking a project of this size, expense and complexity, U of T had to justify it in terms of its benefits to the research enterprise. While the information DiscoverResearch brings to bear is expansive and its ability to drill down into the sprawling landscape of academia is impressive, the reasoning behind installing the system was quite practical. Leaders there cite their reasoning and expected benefits as follows:

Why it was needed:

— U of T is massive and decentralized, and it can be difficult to quickly find people and expertise.

— That difficulty can be expressed is numbers: 16,500-plus faculty members, many conducting research across three campuses, 17 academic divisions and over 200 units, and several affiliated hospitals.

— Access to untapped potential, a need to further connect U of T researchers with the world.

Value add:

— Value will come from connecting U of T faculty with the audiences that find them through the tool. Intended audience is anyone looking for an expert — media, prospective graduate students, industry, community partners, and fellow academic collaborators.

— Business Development Officers across U of T will use DiscoverResearch to quickly connect industry with relevant experts.

— The site allows industry to self-serve and find relevant expertise.

— It brings significant benefits to faculty members and staff at U of T to leverage data for CVs, support grant applications, internal reporting, and quality assurance.

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