Automated, online editing tool aims to make it easier to assess and improve scientific research – wins award, backing and shared facilities with Digital Science

LONDON, UK & BOSTON, USA – Tuesday 8th September 2015: Digital Science, a business division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and a leading technology incubator focused on jumpstarting innovation in the research community, has awarded ‘Catalyst Grant’ to Penelope, an ‘automated manuscript scrutiniser’ that ensures the drafts that authors submit to their publishers are perfect.

The Catalyst Grant Program helps incubator companies or individuals with an innovative idea to support scientific research to develop their initiative, by awarding a monetary grant. Apart from the financial backing, Digital Science will provide a home for Penelope’s staff at its base in London’s King’s Cross and the expertise needed to bring the product to market.

The program, founded and run by Digital Science, aims to support and invest in early stage, innovative scientific software ideas with an award of up to £15,000 each to the most promising ideas for novel uses of information technology in science. It has awarded more than £65,000 in grants to date.

Due to the high number and quality of entrants, Digital Science decided to award two grants this year, the second to be announced later this month.

Penelope’s aim is to improve scientific research by providing a commercially viable way for journals to enforce good scientific practice and adhere to mandates set by funders. The automated tool screens manuscripts for common reporting errors and helps researchers improve their work before submitting it to a journal. It suggests improvements, tells authors why they are important and shares links to further resources.

Penelope ensures manuscripts cite their data, adhere to subject specific reporting guidelines, report statistics soundly and include all necessary sections and statements. It helps authors make their work more valuable and accessible to other researchers, whilst vastly reducing processing times and costs for publishers.

Former neuroscientist and Penelope founder James Harwood has also picked up an Outstanding Achievement Award from the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills this year. He is also a member of the highly regarded Sirius development programme for graduate entrepreneurs.

Harwood says:

“We are proud  to be awarded the Catalyst Grant from Digital Science, especially as the competition attracted lots of really impressive applicants. The money will allow us to pilot Penelope with a handful of early adopters. The expertise and experience that Digital Science brings is equally important, and will really help us grow in the long term. This additional support, which you don’t get from traditional funding sources, makes Digital Science a unique and ideal partner for us.”

Steve Scott, Director of Research Tools at Digital Science adds:

“This year’s decision was our toughest yet, with a field of over 30 entries to consider. However, Penelope stood out and in the end we arrived at a unanimous vote. We’re proud to have an opportunity to help grow the business, now and in the future.”

The Catalyst Grant Program is an international initiative to support the innovation of new software tools and technologies for scientific research.

Previous grantees have included:

Alok Tayi, TetraScience

Building a cloud-based laboratory that can accelerate scientific discovery  

TetraScience is a Boston-based technology company building an open Internet-of-Things (IoT) platform to enhance productivity, safety and reproducibility. By combining wi-fi connected tools and a cloud-based software platform, scientists can monitor and control their experiments from anywhere and upload the data directly to the cloud, thereby accelerating the research process.  Alok, alongside a team of serial entrepreneurs from Harvard & MIT founded the company. Alok explains that the Catalyst Grant funding is enabling his team to pursue their vision of a cloud-based laboratory that can dramatically accelerate scientific discovery.

Michael Schmidt, Nutonian  

Creating a Robotic Scientist to See Patterns in Massive Data Sets

According to Michael Schmidt, CEO at Nutonian, Inc. and a former researcher at Cornell University, we often take the massive complexity in the world for granted. That’s why Schmidt is working on a new direction in artificial intelligence – the creation of a “robotic scientist” that can identify patterns in massive data sets unseen to the human eye. He and his team at Nutonian have set out to map the world’s data sets, calling it the “data genome project”. The goal is to collect one million data sets in the first year, analyse them in the cloud, find out what hidden equations lie in them and link them together. This innovative process will reveal road markers that will allow scientists to look back and see what they say about science and data in general. Schmidt says that “the Catalyst Grant Program has been instrumental, and that we wouldn’t have been able to do the project without it”.

Reuben Robbins, Grantee

Transforming neurocognitive research through technology

Reuben Robbins, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, studies the neurocognitive aspects of HIV through research and neurological testing that requires extensive manual processing. Robbins realized that the interactive nature of the electronic touchscreen could reduce most of the manual processing and an online database could make test results available to his peers globally – transforming research in the field. The new platform affords clinicians instant results and eliminates manual processing to save time and ensure consistency. According to Robbins, funding typically comes through the federal government and is a slow process. “The Catalyst Grant is intellectual and emotional support with fast and flexible funding.”

Nathan Jenkins and Alberto Pepe, Authorea

Dynamic content and data-driven figures for scholarly papers

Nathan Jenkins and Alberto Pepe, of the University of Geneva and Harvard University respectively, cofounded Authorea to bring the modern capabilities of the Web to the previously staid world of scholarly publishing. The Web at some level has transformed most mediums, but the scholarly paper has remained a mostly static document, until now. Authorea allows researchers to dynamically present insights and collaborate on research data in real-time, and gives readers the ability to interact with source data directly. For the first time, scientists will be able to not only read a scholarly piece, but easily understand how the researchers came to their conclusions based on the data, and use it themselves in future studies.

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