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2015: A Year of Change, Growth and Innovation

19th January 2016
By Daniel Hook

For any young tech company (we just celebrated our 5th birthday!) the pace of growth is rapid. With Digital Science’s unique structure – collaboration between a supportive central team and a set of dynamic portfolio companies – the rate at which we seem to change can sometimes be dizzying. So, it’s unsurprising to learn that 2015 has seen Digital Science evolve faster than in any previous year.

For me, the change this year in Digital Science was mirrored in a profoundly personal way when, in July, I was invited to take on the role of Managing Director. As I’ve said to others recently, having worked closely with my predecessor, Timo Hannay, for many years, being asked to take over from this leadership was a mix of excitement and trepidation somewhat akin to the feeling you have if you’ve ever been given the keys to the beloved sports car of a friend or relative.Many of our notable achievements relate directly to helping researchers and those who support them to be more recognised for what they do, more efficient at what they do, and to be more innovative or more open. So, although a little indulgent, I hope you won’t mind this post looking back on some of the “good bits” of 2015.

This year has seen greater recognition of our consultancy team led by Jonathan Adams, who produced a series of insightful and illuminating analyses and visualisations. These include: two Digital Research Reports; the delivery of the REF impact case studies database for HEFCE and the associated collaboration with the Policy Institute at Kings College London over the analysis of these data; and, an interactive collaboration network and comment piece produced with colleagues at our sister company SpringerNature for the Nature Index.

One of the most significant innovations from Digital Science in 2015 has been GRID, our Global Research Identifier Database, which we launched in October. “Open” is important at Digital Science and so we were pleased to be able to make the core GRID dataset available openly on Figshare under a CC-BY licence. Originally, built in-house to support our portfolio companies and internal requirements, GRID contains 50,000 institutional names that are all derived from public lists and publicly funded grants in an automated manner with manual curation to provide a high-quality dataset. GRID includes unique, persistent identifiers and geo-location information across 212 countries. The database can be used to clean up or merge different datasets and allows the technically minded to do some really cool visualisations of data such as the Global Institutional Collaboration Network, generated from PLOS ONE data, which you can see below.


Across Digital Science and the portfolio, we attended more than 50 conferences on 5 continents. We hosted 20 of our own events including Digital Science Showcases in Melbourne, Wellington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and London as well as  our regular Spotlight events, Ada Lovelace Day, OpenCon Satellite events, Symplectic’s ever popular conferences in London, Melbourne and Boston; Altmetric’s 2AM conference and Figshare’s inaugural Figshare Fest. Look out for a chance to see us in 2016 – we always want to hear about new challenges and new ways to help you.

Our Catalyst Grant programme has continued to grow and we received a record number of innovative submissions in 2015! This presented us with the difficult but exciting task of selecting the winners. We are proud to have awarded Catalyst Grants to both TetraScience and Ada Lovelace Day. I am confident that we will see great things from them as they continue to develop.

Highlights from across our portfolio

At the heart of Digital Science are the portfolio companies and it would be remiss to look back at 2015 and not to highlight some of the product enhancements, collaborations and successes from their perspectives:

  • Over the last 12 months, Altmetric has served more than 2.92 billion API requests and has supported at least 8 research articles. Altmetric continues to diversify and lead the movement around article-level credit and is now tracking attention around articles in The Conversation as well as including mentions from study records. Altmetric partnered with Springer to launch Bookmetrix, a book and chapter-level attention platform. Sara Rouhi, Product Sales Manager at Altmetric, received the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s 2015 Emerging Leader Award.
  • BioRAFT dramatically expanded its customer base in both the academic and private sector research markets with new customers and expanded services for existing customers. BioRAFT was another Digital Science company to see significant expansion in its team, with the addition of a new Director of Sales and more staff in development, product management, professional services, sales and marketing. In response to recent lab safety scares (some of which even made the mainstream news) BioRAFT released 12 new subversions of its application, which included functionality driven and informed by its customers that enhance laboratory inspections and streamline the biosafety registration and hazard tracking processes.
  • Figshare launched the next generation of their research data management platform. An exciting milestone in the usage of by the academic community saw the number of public articles on the site exceed 2,000,000, of which 500,000 are datasets. There are more than 5,000 citations to the articles in Figshare. Among many partners who chose to work with Figshare this year some of the most exciting content came from The American Chemical Society, the Geological Society and the VIVO Conference. Figshare was also recognised as a “Cool Vendor 2015” by Gartner and were ifinalists in the UK IT Industry Awards 2015 for the “Best use of Cloud Services” award, for their innovative work with Loughborough University and Arkivum.
  • Labguru diversified functionality and with it the clients with whom they partner. Large institutions adopting Labguru for all their researchers now include Jackson Laboratories and AstraZeneca as well as a number of academic research institutions, biotech companies and government labs across the US, the Netherlands, France and Australia. The Labguru team will be out on a number of road trips in 2016 so do look out for them on their travels!
  • Overleaf hit the three million projects mark in July! If you printed all those papers, the stack would be as wide as Pluto (the planet, not the dog!). The Overleaf team has tripled in size and is now working with more than 80 Overleaf advisors around the globe. Through partnerships in the publishing industry, Overleaf is now in a position to provide manuscript submission links to over 10,000 journals across all fields! No surprise with all this activity that Overleaf received a Highly Commended in the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing and John Hammersley, co-founder, was named as one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars for 2015.
  • ReadCube continued its success with over 15.3 million users reading, discovering and managing their content libraries. That translates to more than 133 million articles being read in Readcube for a total of 634 years of reading time! The NPG content sharing initiative, powered by ReadCube technology, celebrated its first anniversary. ReadCube now partners with more publishers than can be mentioned in this post! You can read their full list in the ReadCube year in review
  • Symplectic had a very busy year, introducing three new modules, an enhanced integration with Figshare’s institutional offering and a brand new integration with UberResearch’s Dimensions product. They also added SSRN as a new data source, much to the delight of social science researchers. Rather impressively, Symplectic’s Open Access Monitor has already been adopted by over 25 of Symplectic’s institutional clients and the recent launch of their new Impact Module generated a lot of interest in the UK. Symplectic continues to attract a lot of attention from across the globe and 2015 saw Elements launched at the University of Georgia, Symplectic’s largest ever implementation.
  • ÜberResearch, having only started their company two short years ago, showed impressive steps forward. The Dimensions database now includes more than 1.9 million grants worth more than $918 billion from over 150 funders globally. More than $236 billion of that funding is currently live and being spent today. This gives a unique insight into the research that is being done right now. Last year was the first full year that Dimensions was available to clients with more than 50 signing up, amongst them some of the largest funders in the world.

On top of all this Martin Szomzor, our Head of Data Science, Mark Hahnel, founder of Figshare and Euan Adie, founder of Altmetric, were all named in Information Age’s list of 2015’s top data leaders and influencers.

Here’s to all of the teams and portfolio companies at Digital Science and wishing the best to all of you for 2016!

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