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'Knimbus was born out of desire to boost Indian research'
Research and development activity in India is scaling up but lack of interaction between Indian and global research communities is causing less efficient research. The Gurgaon-based online platform Knimbus was born out of a desire to boost innovation through faster knowledge discovery by creating connections between global research communities. Knimbus is a collaborative platform for researchers to discover and share knowledge with peers. Founded in 2010 by entrepreneurs Rahul Agarwalla and Tarun Arora, Knimbus addresses challenges faced by researchers in accessing multiple information sources, Knimbus is an initiative to democratize information. In an exclusive interview with this citizen journalist, Rahul Agarwalla shares his thoughts on research and innovation.

CJ: Was starting a social and professional exchange platform for the scientific community an India-driven initiative or was the demand global?

Rahul Agarwalla: Knimbus has a global market perspective but the idea was inspired by research needs in India. Knimbus was born out of a desire to boost Indian Research both in terms of output and active participation in global research communities. Knimbus is a global search and collaboration platform that connects creators and users of Scientific, Technical & Medical (STM) knowledge to online content and peer groups. The ability to quickly find relevant information and connect with other researchers and end users of research can significantly accelerate overall research efficiency and productivity. This will help usher in an innovation revolution which changes R&D in India much like the green revolution changed agriculture.

The demand is global – in today’s information age researchers everywhere must have tools like Knimbus. Institutions today spend crores of rupees subscribing to very valuable STM information. However, usage of this information is limited to resources which the individual researcher is aware of and has the time to search. This is not effective because researchers cannot miss relevant content. The relevant content is spread across a multitude of publishers and hence the need for single window search like Knimbus to discover it. Knimbus gives the user access to all the institutions preferred subscription and open source content thus enabling much wider and faster access to knowledge.

Knimbus also incorporates social and collaboration features because that is how research is done today – 93% of published research is co-authored. Users are tagging, sharing and discussing information relevant to their field. This helps people connect and collaborate across barriers of time & distance. It also creates context around the information akin to collective intelligence. This is useful to filter content and thus find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

CJ: Scientists and those doing research can often be secretive of sharing knowledge and information. Has the scientific community raised issues of this kind while interacting with each other?

Rahul Agarwalla: Competition and collaboration go hand in hand in research. Researchers have asked and Knimbus has provided tools to minutely control what you share, with whom and what remains private. The fine grained controls let users both facilitate discussions and enjoy their privacy.

CJ: What are the most discussed themes on Knimbus?

Rahul Agarwalla: Some of the key themes are: soil structure, rfid tag, musculoskeletal disorders, biomedical nanotechnology, cancer mechanisms, metagenomics, helimagnets, polysaccharide hydrogels, aminobenzimidazole, trimesoyl chloride, and rf mems switch.

CJ: Based on the initial reaction, are you planning to expand and add more features?

Rahul Agarwalla: Our first goal was to establish a wide presence in India. In the 10 months after launch, Knimbus has become the leading STM information service provider in India with the widest access to global STM content and top creators and users of this knowledge in India. Over 600 institutions across India, Bangladesh and the Middle East use Knimbus for their research needs.

We are also expanding globally and in discussions with partners in the US, EU, and South East Asia. Our users are the biggest asset we have. We believe viral/social marketing will see us expanding to over 200,000 researchers by the end of the year.

As Knimbus grows, it shall become a platform for new kinds of applications and value added services which leverage the community and the content on Knimbus.

IP management: analyze patent portfolio / compare with competitors
Trend analysis: which area should we be doing research
Crowdsourcing projects: smaller companies do not have budgets for large R&D teams and need help on specific challenges

CJ: Since Knimbus is all about free exchange of scientific knowledge - do you plan to go offline to extend the portal's online brand equity?

Rahul Agarwalla: We have much to do online and see ourselves as an online brand. At the same time our user organizations need to meet us face to face at times. We, thus, participate in industry events like the Special Libraries Association conference in the US or the Book Fair in Frankfurt.

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