How to identify your academic colleagues

No Kevin Bacon in these degrees of separation

Ran across this cool tool recently on Twitter via St. Olaf film studies professor Amy E. Bordon : Macademia, a Macalester College project designed to connect academics who have the same or similar research interests.

It reminds me vaguely of TheyRule.net, which shows the web of connections among the nation’s elite — but is interactive.

According to the site:

Macademia visualizes faculty research interests. You can:

  • Click on a name or interest to recenter the visualization.
  • Hover over a name or interest to show more information.
  • Search in the upper right for a person or interest.
  • Filter the search results by school.
  • Add your own profile by signing up in the upper right.
  • Collaborate by creating or viewing a collaboration request.

Macademia was created by current and past students under the direction of Shilad Sen, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science.

I’ve got a call out to get more info. Seems interesting.

Do any other colleges and universities in Minnesota have anything like this?

Update:

I just talked to Sen, who said the project should make it much easier for faculty members to identify colleagues with whom they can collaborate on research projects — not an easy thing, especially considering the narrow fields some professors practice in.

He said:

“Faculty at one institution won’t know the faculty at another institution.”

How does it work?

After someone fills out a short profile, that profile is linked to those with similar interests.

In the image above, for example, the center name is that of the person profiled. The inner ring shows research interests, and the outer ring shows others who share those interests. The colored lines represent the various schools.

Sen told me:

“There’s nothing exactly like it right now available. There’s nothing that does the visualization like it for connecting related research interests.”

He said the three-year-old project went live for Macalester last summer. He expanded in the fall to 13 member schools of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and is getting ready to launch the site at to about three dozen more in the U.S. He hopes to soon make the system completely public.

So far the system has 500 profiles, but will soon post about 1,000 more. That accounts for about 50 percent of the faculty at Macalester, and about a quarter or so of the faculty at other colleges, he said.

  • The Academic Health Center at the U of MN has Profiles — a research networking software. It doesn’t have the same sort of visual display, but it does have a similar purpose. http://profiles.ahc.umn.edu/Search.aspx

    • Layne

      There are similar visualization capabilities in UMN Profiles. Macademia looks great. We should collaborate!

  • Anonymous

    Neat. Thanks, Megan.