Societies Research // January 8th, 2014

“It’s not who you know, it’s who you should know”: an interview with David Steinberg, CEO of Knode


knodeFounded in 2011 through Enlight Biosciences and PureTech Ventures, Knode Inc was recently named one of FierceBioTechIT’s
“5 next-gen software tools for biopharma R&D”. To celebrate Knode and Wiley’s new partnership to deliver innovative services to scholarly and scientific societies, we interviewed their CEO, David Steinberg.

1. Please can you tell us a bit about why you launched Knode – what need were you seeking to meet?

Knode was originally formed as part of a collaboration among multiple pharmaceutical companies, called Enlight Biosciences, focused on solving common research problems.  As research across both industry and academia has become more open and collaborative, Enlight’s pharma members continually faced challenges identifying the most appropriate researchers for key partnerships.  We formed Knode as an independent company around the mission of automating the process of capturing expertise, identifying researchers and their content, and forging connections to advance R&D.

2. How does the Knode platform work?

We’ve built a versatile automated platform to capture expertise and foster collaboration.  We extract data from millions of documents, including US Patents, Pubmed Abstracts, NIH grants and clinicaltrials.gov.  Using advance semantic mining and data extraction algorithms, we create “research signatures” for millions of researchers, describing their core areas of expertise, publication track record, authorship networks, and more.  We provide users with advanced tools to filter and assess the information, for example searching for researchers by clinical focus, highlighting prolific inventors, and flagging up-and-coming young investigators.  Users can also explore co-authorship networks visually, for example to identify independent reviewers outside an author’s network or gauge an expert’s collaboration track record.  Individual profiles can be explored in detail, for example allowing users to filter an expert’s content by specific topic area.  We can also process customers’ custom data sets just for them, to add a level of resolution to the insight we glean from the public data.

Because we’ve built this rich, flexible database of experts and their content, we can provide valuable capabilities for many kinds of organizations like universities, scholarly societies, regional organizations, and life science companies.  For example we’ve created robust organizational membership portals for many organizations that use Knode to promote their experts to the world, engage with outside collaborators, and manage and track their membership rolls.

3. How does Knode fit into the overall scholarly communications ecosystem?

More than ever, the individual researcher is emerging as the center of the scholarly communications universe. Several forces are converging to bring this about. For example, open access publishing, including broadly practices like pre-publication archiving and post-publication peer-review, is vesting more control over research output in the author.  Along with this, an explosion of data – both larger data sets and new kinds of research outputs – creates huge measurement and assessment challenges.  Further, the push toward collaborative research and publishing is growing.  The average number of co-authors per Pubmed citation has grown from 1.5 in 1950 to around 4 in 2003 to over 5 in 2013, and today almost 10% of NIH grants are inter-institutional.  What this all means is that identifying, profiling, and describing research expertise is becoming incredibly important.  To succeed in scholarly publishing, researchers and organizations must do a better job –  in a noisier environment – of finding each other, promoting themselves, and managing their collaborations. New tools, using the latest data mining and techniques, are required to address the challenges in this changing landscape. That’s exactly what Knode is designed to do.

4. You’re partnering with Wiley to deliver services for societies – what sorts of opportunities do you see for our partnership?

Wiley is the premier academic publisher in the world, with incredibly broad reach, deep insight into the research ecosystem, and an extremely skilled and knowledgeable team focused on disseminating scholarly thought.  Wiley is focusing these capabilities toward helping researchers, institutions, and organizations thrive in this dynamic scholarly publishing milieu.  Knode has built a deep set of technical capabilities around understanding and profiling researchers.  Putting the two organizations together allows us to create the most powerful platform in the world for capturing and sharing research expertise.

This partnership is specifically geared toward providing customized research expertise portals to learned societies and other academic and regional organizations worldwide.  The focus is on providing an active, dynamic platform for society members to engage with each other, and for society leadership to better track, manage, recruit and communicate with members.

5. How have the societies and other organizations you’ve partnered with to date responded to your services?

We are just starting to roll out our platform widely and are receiving a fantastic response.   We have over a dozen partners and collaborators to date, and thousands and thousands of users of our open beta site.   We have many thousands of affiliated researchers covered by institutional portals we’ve provided to these organizations.  We’ve also received a tremendous amount of very valuable feedback from our partners, for example on how to “rank” based on expertise, how to get the most out of our visualization tools, etc., that has helped us continually improve our product. Because our platform is cloud based, we can quickly incorporate these and other updates and push them to all of our customers.

6. What are your plans for the future; where do you see Knode in five years’ time?

We see Knode growing to become an integral part of the scientific expertise and scholarly research ecosystem.  Drawing insight from the onslaught of research data will only become more important over time, and Knode’s unique researcher-centric view of the world will be critical in this endeavor.  We think every organization that participates in science or scholarly publishing will be able to benefit from this approach.  We are developing new, exciting ways to characterize researcher expertise based on all facets of their work, helping to move away from raw impact as a measure of research output to more descriptive and broad-based measures of true “research signatures.” To date we’ve focused on life sciences but we will be expanding to new fields soon. At Knode we like to say “it’s not who you know, it’s who you should know” that matters.  We’d like to be at the center of that pursuit.

Read the press release announcing Wiley’s new partnership with Knode.