So. Science Has A Problem
Let's be honest, it's not easy being a scientist. From science deniers to sensationalist reporting to funding refusals...it sometimes seems like the world is rather determined to undermine science at every possible opportunity. Fortunately, there are a number of individuals who are working to combat this troubling trend. Guaana is one such company.
Ultimately, science is all about the sharing of knowledge and information—breakthroughs can't happen if experts don't have access to the latest advancements; however, paywalls and corporate funding and a host of other obstacles crop up that prevent scientists from speaking to one another and accessing necessary information.
How do we fix this? How can we better share our knowledge to accelerate the next generation of scientific and technological breakthroughs? This is the fundamental question that helped make Guaana what it is; it is what prompted them on their quest to bring forth a new era of open source information and collaboration to the sciences.
A New Way to Network
In short, Guanna is a platform for scientists and researchers to come together and connect with like-minded individuals and build on each other's ideas...it is a platform for making connections, forming collaborations to make science happen. It's about trying to connect the dots in a way they haven’t been (or couldn't have been) connected before.
Marko Russiver, Guaana's CEO and cofounder, clarifies by noting that this is more than just a place to post research—it is a community of scientists working together towards a common end: "We didn't want to build a digital archive of knowledge, it's more like a buzzing saloon of people talking, sharing knowledge, and really working together."
Indeed, Russiver states that, ultimately, the company is all about the generation of scientific knowledge: "A majority of research papers published today are written to justify the received grant money instead of talking about practical, important science. This practice has alienated scientists from each other and companies...we're solving this by enabling them to work on projects they are passionate about and that actually matters."
So, how does it differ from other platforms or web forums (Researchgate, for example)?
Russiver begins by noting some of the issues that plague forms that are (supposedly) dedicated to the advancement of scientific research. As Russiver notes, “There have been a number of instances where platforms have abused scientific research papers and, sadly, used scientists as member base growth drivers.” Guaana asserts that they are all about respecting the individual. "
We don't use the smartest people on Earth to make ourselves look good. We empower them so they could do their job better, faster and with full support of individuals such as themselves in the fields they care about." Additionally, Russiver notes that most social networks revolve around authored content and past research papers. "But science shouldn’t be about what you did 15 years ago. It should be about what you do now. About finding opportunities to discuss and develop your bold ideas and make them happen."
Guaana also helps by working with the scientists who use the platform from the moment that they first join: "It's not just the tools and the features on the platform....we have around 20 research campaigns published so far, but we have 68 in the back. This is because we are working with the project proposers to ensure that they are both clear and high quality, even making intros to relevant people from our own personal networks before the project goes live.”
In short, Russiver clarifies, "If you come to Guaana to post a project, you are not going to be alone, our whole team works with you." He adds that this ultimately functions as a kind of 'vetting process,' which allows Guaana to verify identities and information and ensure that the work is sound.
Filling in the Gaps
Russiver asserts that Guaana came about after realizing how difficult it was for scientists to connect, and how long it takes for valuable research to come to light: "Scientific collaboration right now is really difficult. It takes quite a bit of determination to just reach the people that you need to. It all takes so much time, and what scientists should really be able to focus on is the research. So for us, what is important is trying to find ways to try and accelerate science so the breakthroughs could be applied rather sooner than later to solve real world problems.”
Indeed, research often sits in the darkened corners of the internet for decades before it is finally uncovered by someone who puts it to use or makes those "breakthrough" connections. "Can you even imagine the stuff that just lies about in random laboratories around the world? There's all this information, and many don't know what to do with it because they don't talk about it...or if they do talk, they don't know who to talk to," Russiver states. “Touch-screen technology was sitting in CERN labs for 30 years before it ended up in everyone’s pocket.”
And this is precisely what Guaana is hoping to help alleviate.
Notably, one of the keys to the project is the feedback that the team has received from scientists. Russiver asserts that Guaana focused their efforts on determining the specific tools that scientists said that they needed, and then incorporating those things into their platform.
"We connected with experts from CERN, NASA, the European Space Agency, and numerous individual scientists from around the world," Russiver begins. "We even managed to get a hold of several Nobel Prize laureates who showed their support for the concept. And when my childhood hero Jack Horner, known for his work as scientific advisory to Jurassic Park movies, said 'I quite frankly hope it actually does create some changes in how people think,' we felt we were ready to go."
And it is completely free for scientists (and always will be). You can check them out, and sign up, here.