Scitable Mixes Science, Crowdsourcing, and Social Networking

Posted by: Damian Joseph on July 1, 2009

I spoke with Vikram Savkar, senior vp and publishing director of Nature Education. He’s also the head of Scitable.com, a Web site that mixes elements of crowdsourcing, social media, and peer-reviewed science for educational purposes. Though it’s free, it’s not nonprofit. The site is part of a plan by Nature Publishing Group, which has been publishing scientific journals for 140 years, to extend its reach to the college-aged crowd.

Here's the lowdown:
- The site is filled with published, peer-reviewed scientific journals from Nature Publishing
- The content is free for anyone to access
- Students can network with professors and professional scientists around the world to answer questions, work through scientific problems, or to discuss what being a professional scientist is like

The plan is to be profitable in 5 years, by selling advertising through the site. This is where things get tricky: the sponsors must contribute to the site. Says Savkar, "There will be no ads for products. We want people that care about science."

He's envisioning ads that highlight, say, internships at labs, educational programs, or jobs at biopharmaceutical companies. So far, they've pulled about 1,000 articles from the Nature's archives and added a host of new content on genetics for collegiates.

Here's Savkar's pitch:

"One of the things that we recognize is social media and networking opens up education to the next level. Scitable is a site where we make available content, but there's also a community. When you’re reading an article on the site, you can see other members of the global community and connect with them immediately. You can ask for help or ideas and build your own community to ask questions to. You'd be surprised by how much scientists want to help. Most scientists are pretty passionate and idealistic."

Soon, anyone will be able to add content to the site and have it reviewed and rated by the community. Work can also be reviewed by experts around the world. Check out John Winsor's recent piece on what crowdsourcing means for innovation here. Also, see what the crowd had to say about it.

If I was still in college trying to wrap my brain around what I'd just seen in chem lab, I'd be hitting up Scitable.com

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