Research Magazine 2006

Web-based resource facilitates research collaboration

Research web site

Fighting pain is painful—both physically and economically. According to the American Academy of Pain Management, 50 million Americans live with chronic pain. It’s the nation’s costliest health care problem with an annual price tag of nearly $50 billion.

These statistics suggest a need to ramp up pain management research. The University of Texas at Arlington and its Collaborative Partnership offer a one-stop source for finding research resources to solve problems, spur innovation and pursue funding.

With one click and a keyword “pain” search, users can access dozens of faculty members with pain research credentials. Think of it as a common storefront for those in academia, industry and government agencies to join forces in pursuit of commercialization and funding opportunities—in pain or any other area.

“It gives faculty a resource to find collaborators,” says Ron Elsenbaumer, UT Arlington’s vice president for research. “If they’re pursuing a research grant, they can find complementary expertise and put together a stronger proposal to win the grant.”

The project began as an effort to make all information about research and scholarly activity at UT Arlington easily accessible through the Web. Dr. Elsenbaumer and Jeremy Forsberg, director of Grant and Contract Services, wanted a database from which all information was derived, thus eliminating the fragmented nature in which the data previously existed.

What resulted was the ReSearch Profile System. Part content management, part information repository and part Web page builder, the system’s goal is saving time and resources. For example, faculty can update profiles in real time, upload files (publications, works, reports, syllabi), and automatically generate curriculum vitae, biographical sketches, performance evaluations and more.

But the ReSearch Profile System goes beyond faculty information. It also links data on research centers, facilities, equipment, technology, laboratories and research groups.

“Creating a system that was easily searchable was very important,” Elsenbaumer says. “The information is now easily accessible to the outside world.”

Accessible, indeed. Launched in May, the site received 40,000 hits the first month and more than 50,000 the second month. What’s more, search engines like Google and Yahoo directed 80 percent of those viewing the site.

The next step is to incorporate databases with funding opportunities. Soon to be launched, the Collaborative Funding Network utilizes daily downloads from grants.gov to provide one place to find collaborators and related funding opportunities. It allows experts to easily establish research teams within or outside their own institution. Their communication can be organized at the individual, university, university system and state levels as well as by geographic region within the state.

Currently, faculty at UT Arlington, UT Pan American and the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth are members and are searchable. The key to maximizing the network’s potential is increased participation, says Elsenbaumer.

“Take pain research, for example,” he says. “The network would allow you to search for this type of expertise at all participating institutions instead of just one. The resulting collaboration could tremendously strengthen a research proposal by giving it more depth and a broader perspective. It would give member institutions a competitive edge.”

And help millions of Americans find relief from chronic pain.

Online: www.uta.edu/research/collaborate and www.uta.edu/ra/real

— Mark Permenter