Before researchers can simulate experiments or conduct surveys, they first have to look for potential collaborators interested in investigating the same topic and also request and receive funding from the government, corporate partners, or private sources.
The Pivot database, recently brought to the University of Iowa, provides researchers with information for approximately $47.7 billion worth of funding opportunities and a profiling system that matches people with similar points of research.
“It’s a funding database but also a collaboration tool,” UI Research Development Office Director Aaron Kline said. “It’s generally trying to make researchers’ lives easier.”
Pivot’s introduction to the UI is a result of collaboration among the Research Development Office, the Division of Sponsored Programs, and UI Libraries.
“I think it’s really important we give credit to the collaboration between us,” Kline said. “This is just a really intuitive tool and one of the most robust funding and collaboration tools available. We’re really excited to have that at the university.”
Pivot replaces another research database, Spin, which had been available to the UI. Kline said the new resource is much more accessible and makes for a better user experience.
“It’s really a click of a button, and the results are right there for you,” Kline said. “It’s much cleaner. We’re hoping it will get people opportunities in a more timely way, so they can prepare more competitive proposals.”
Kline said that Pivot will not only fund UI research opportunities but also bridge disciplinary barriers across campus by identifying collaborators from different areas.
“This one tool accomplishes two of the great missions here at the university,” Kline said. “This is a great tool to help facilitate the process of interdisciplinary research.”
Faculty, students, and staff have access to Pivot via their university email or a university computer, and Kline said seeing a universe of opportunities in alignment with their specific research areas is a cool aspect of the program.
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UI Associate University Librarian Paul Soderdahl said potential collaborators for researchers on Pivot are not necessarily limited to UI colleagues, they could also be researchers anywhere in the world.
“I think something this is all trying to do is elevate the profile of the research that’s happening already at the university, making it more visible to funders, to other researchers, and to the general public,” Soderdahl said.
Pivot is only one part of a package that UI Libraries is working on developing that will record, document, and preserve the work of researchers coming out of the university and capture all publications from university faculty, he said.
UI Division of Sponsored Programs research support specialist Oliva Smith said the search interface on Pivot is unlike other databases in that the algorithm is more powerful and tagging by editors is more precise.
“You can save a search, so you get results every Sunday evening,” Smith said. “That’s one of the nicest things about Pivot — it’s just like three steps.”
This kind of timeliness will make it possible for researchers to prepare for funding applications four to 12 months in advance of when they need it while simultaneously keeping up with competition, she said.
“Learning to make it happen, searching for funding, it’s just kind of part of someone’s life if they’re going to continue in academia,” Smith said.