Investigator Seeking Investigator with Similar Interests? Try CUSP

August 20, 2012

Looking for a collaborator? CUMC researchers can now find like-minded colleagues with Columbia University Scientific Profiles (CUSP) – a new Web tool designed by the Biomedical Informatics Resource of the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.

CUSP is one of the major accomplishments of the Irving Institute for Clinical Translational Research, which houses the NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award (Columbia’s CTSA). CUSP began as a thought experiment between Henry Ginsberg, the Institute director and PI of the CTSA, and Stephen Johnson, the first head of the Institute’s Biomedical Informatics Resource.

The idea behind CUSP, says one of its developers, Chunhua Weng, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, is to reduce the hassle of finding collaborators for multidisciplinary research.

“All the information was available, but scattered in different places. Now we’re providing “one-stop shopping,” she says. “Investigators’ contact information, grants, and publications are integrated together in one location.”

Click on Research Profiles at the top of the CUMC homepage to access CUSP


Visualizing Networks of Existing Collaborations

Networks of Columbia depression researchers and their grants.

CUSP works by extracting grant data from existing Columbia systems and publication data from PubMed and then processing the data with a special algorithm to create profiles restricted to Columbia authors.

A unique feature of CUSP – its visualization tool that reveals networks of scientists – also makes finding collaborators easier. “You may not know the most senior researcher in the network,” Weng says “but you may know someone in their network who can make an introduction.”

And because the data in CUSP is automatically refreshed every month, researchers can be assured of up-to-date query results.


Future Features to Include Community-based Organizations and Enhancements to Publications

The CUSP development team, which also includes faculty members Suzanne Bakken, the Alumni Professor of Nursing and Professor of Biomedical Informatics, and Thomas Bigger, professor of medicine and of pharmacology, and programmers Daniel Dine, Richard Steinman, and Sylvia Trembowelski, are expanding CUSP features.

Liang-Nian Song, center, one of the first Columbia researchers to use CUSP, won a iPad in a recent contest for CUSP users. Song is an associate research scientist in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Members of the CUSP team presented the award.

In the near future, CUSP will include data on community-based organizations that participate in research. “By putting community-based information into the system, we can facilitate two-way communication—not only can those in the community locate CUMC collaborators, CUMC investigators can find community collaborators,” Bakken says.

Other future enhancements will let researchers add publications that are not indexed by PubMed and export data into spreadsheets or email lists.

“The Irving Institute and CTSA support many initiatives including research support, training, and mentoring, but our overriding goal is to facilitate and advance multi- and interdisciplinary research at CUMC," says Henry Ginsberg. "CUSP is a major step along the path toward achieving that goal.”


The Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Columbia University Medical Center is part of the national Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) consortium, whose goal is to accelerate discoveries toward better health, and is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant Number UL1 TR00040.

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