This week, members of my staff went to a meeting to kick off a project that has long been of interest to me, development of a fed-wide system for collecting professional profile information for our investigators. This concept has been an interest of the Federal Demonstration Partnership and others for many years. I think now the time is right to begin doing the groundwork that is needed to put such a system in place. A fed-wide profile system could be used in many ways, for example, pre-populating federal forms and allowing us to more efficiently locate expertise and share data across agencies. Profiles not only will reduce the need for repeatedly entering personal information in various federal data collections it will also help scientists form networks based on interests and expertise.
Tools like Lattes , developed by the Brazilian government, have already proven that the technology works and acceptance for the concept. Lattes, which began in 1999, is currently in use by some 2.5 million people in 18 countries. Other profiling systems like VIVO , OSUPro , Harvard Catalyst , and Stanford CAP may be helpful in developing the features of a fed-wide system and may, ultimately, serve as a source of information.
This project is in the embryonic stages, so I want to be careful not to set inappropriate expectations. We have a lot to do, and it will take some time to implement such a system. At this point, we are still organizing ourselves and defining short- and long-term objectives. The next step will be to articulate the goals and explore potential benefits and uses of such a system. This will be done in collaboration with our research community to ensure we are developing a viable business model and creating a tool that will benefit us all. Then, as we move forward, we will need to research technologies and explore policy issues that might allow us to pull data from existing profile systems into a central location that could be tapped by all the federal research agencies and others. We will also begin the long process of working with federal agencies to ensure that all of our systems can handle a unique researcher identifier (a concept that is central to such a system), and that we can standardize data definitions and use the data from such a system in ways that will be useful.
The Research Business Models interagency working group, which I co-chair, and the Science of Science Policy Working Group are both very interested in this topic and will provide input and oversight into the group working on a potential fed-wide profile system.
I look forward to seeing this project progress. It will take us a bit of time before we are ready to fully engage the community on these issues, but I will certainly keep you updated as things move forward.