UMN Profiles: Creating meaningful connections

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Biomedical Informatics team launches UMN Profiles, a web-based tool to help create meaningful connections among the research community in Minnesota and around the world.

What is UMN Profiles?

UMN Profiles is a research networking software tool and an expertise database. It not only shows traditional directory information (e.g., name, phone number, office location), but also illustrates how each person is connected to others in the broad research community.

How does UMN Profiles help make connections?

A researcher can search UMN Profiles using keywords, like "diabetes" or "cancer," and receive a list of potential University of Minnesota colleagues working in that area. UMN Profiles displays a visual network map for each expert, showing how that individual is linked to others in the research community by publishing together or acting as a mentor, for example.

UMN Profiles is also part of a national research network that currently includes 30 research institutions. This network is accessible at Direct2experts.org and provides access to approximately 50,000 experts and potential collaborators. Likewise, users of the national network can search for expertise and collaborators at UMN.

Watch this video to learn more, including how Christine Blue of the School of Dentistry found a colleague and developed a new research partnership using Profiles.

Who can use UMN Profiles?
Anyone with access to the internet--from a physician researcher in rural Minnesota to a nursing student across the globe--can search UMN Profiles to locate experts and potential collaborators. Health sciences researchers at the University of Minnesota have access to another level of functionality when they are automatically added as users with a system-generated profile. That profile includes demographic information, publications, and connections to colleagues.

The UMN Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) aims to expand Profiles to connect researchers across disciplines, including biological sciences and engineering, and in community-based organizations. This expansion is supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Consortium, a group of 60 medical research institutions--including the University of Minnesota--that are transforming the way biomedical research is conducted. UMN Profiles and other research networking tools create the meaningful connections necessary to achieve CTSA goals: to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients; to engage communities in clinical research efforts; and to train a new generation of clinical and translational researchers.

What kind of information is included on an individual's profile?
When you view a person's profile, three types of information are displayed:

Managed Descriptions include demographic information, including name, titles, affiliation, phone number and email address.

Passive Networks are formed automatically when researchers share common traits such as being in the same department, working in the same building, co-authoring the same paper, or researching the same topics.

Active networks are defined by the user. When users view other people's profiles, they can mark those people as collaborators, advisors, or advisees.

How is the information in UMN Profiles maintained? Is it up to date?
New users are added to UMN Profiles once each quarter by pulling in associated demographic information from the PeopleSoft human resources system on a regular basis. Publications are added from the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database, and passive networks are automatically updated, once each quarter. Individual users may also log in at any time to update their photo, list awards and presentations, or manually add publications which are not available through PubMed.

What's next for UMN Profiles?
CTSI, together with a team from UMN Biomedical Health Informatics and the Health Sciences Libraries, is working to make research networking software more useful for those outside of traditional health sciences disciplines. Future enhancements include the addition of information about grants and expertise profiles of community partners.

Other research networking tools will be deployed and will integrate with UMN Profiles to provide institution-wide, cross-disciplinary identification of experts. The integrated seamless research networking system will be a leading example of our investment in collaborative research and will provide University of Minnesota researchers with a premier networking system.

Who created UMN Profiles?
This service is made possible by the Profiles Research Networking Software developed under the supervision of Griffin M Weber, MD, PhD, with support from Grant Number 1 UL1 RR025758-01 to Harvard Catalyst: The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center from the National Center for Research Resources and support from Harvard University and its affiliated academic healthcare centers.

For further information, questions, or demonstrations, please contact the CTSI Front Door at 612-625-2874 or ctsi@umn.edu.

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