ScienceScape startup founded by U of T student helps researchers track findings
“It is a crazy problem; nobody knows what is happening in science”
Sometimes an invention makes so much sense people wonder why it didn’t already exist. Take the U of T-based startup, ScienceScape.
A platform that organizes and streams thousands of articles published every day in biomedical science journals, ScienceScape helps researchers keep tabs on the most recent developments in their fields.
Founded in 2010 by Sam Molyneux, a U of T PhD student in biomedical physics, and his sister Amy Molyneux, a web developer and technical project manager, ScienceScape’s database includes articles published as far back as two centuries.
ScienceScape, says Amy, is “like a Twitter for science,” but a Twitter with a difference: articles are also organized according to their impact. This means users can determine which are most relevant to their own research, both historically and in terms of recent advances. It also allows them to share papers with networks of their collaborators.
The idea for ScienceScape grew out of Sam’s own research.
“I was working on bone cancer research and I needed to figure out whom to work with,” says Sam. “I spoke to people over a number of years and concluded that most researchers around the world are unaware of the papers being published every day. It is a crazy problem; nobody knows what is happening in science.”
The siblings realized that there was an online solution and that they could bring it to life. They merged their complementary skills and ScienceScape was born.
The concept is simple, but the execution has been complex. Underpinning the platform are algorithms that “teach themselves to read papers the same way scientists read them,” says Amy.
“It’s a problem that couldn’t have been solved 10 years ago. It wouldn’t be possible without cloud computing, advanced data science and machine learning.”
The Molyneux siblings initially funded ScienceScape out of their own pockets, then, in true startup tradition, turned to family and friends and then to angel investors. So far, they have raised more than $3 million. In the future, they say, revenue will come from use of the service by corporations, governments and libraries. It is available free of charge to academics.
The startup has grown to 25 employees with what Sam calls “a heavy component of data scientists from the best labs at U of T.” Lead data scientist Aaron Colak is a PhD student in computer science at U of T and 50 per cent of their full-time employees are U of T graduates.
Although the platform is up and running, the Molyneux siblings want to enrich the data and improve the user experience based on feedback from current users before they expand to other fields of study.
“The more we understand this platform, the closer we are to using it for other targets,” says Amy.
Adds Sam, “It’s our mission to organize and deliver all of the world’s research.”