Cora Cole is moving on to the national Fundica Roadshow finals, where she will be pitching for a chance to win $1 million.
Cole is the Founder and CEO of Grey Lit Matters, a Halifax startup whose platform provides researchers with a targeted audience for research that has not yet been reviewed by peers. On Thursday, it beat out 10 competitors to win the top spot in the Fundica Roadshow stop in Halifax. It will now proceed to the national finals, where it will compete against nine other regional winners for the $1 million first prize.
“The traditional peer-review process is still to go to journals that [collate] all the research out there,” Cole told a panel of judges at the Fundica event. “That process hasn’t changed since the First World War. We’re going to change that.”
The problem with scientific research is that only about 10 percent of it ends up in peer-reviewed academic journals. In 2013, there was $500 billion in research conducted around the world, so $450 billion of it – what’s known as grey literature – was ignored by academic journals.
That means research that could cure diseases or lead to medical devices tends to languish, despite the evidence that research in grey literature can produce groundbreaking products. Viagra, pacemakers, penicillin and rubber all came from grey literature R&D.
Grey Lit Matters has produced a Software-as-a-Service platform on which researchers can store, share, and disseminate unpublished, non-peer-reviewed research. Each piece of research must be affiliated with an accredited institution, like a university or hospital. For the person who has completed research, it means his or her work can find a relevant audience. For the broader community, Grey Lit Matters finds them the relevant material so they’re not awash with research papers that don’t interest them.
The platform’s software assesses each reader’s interests, discipline and favourite influencers, and uses that information to customize a journal for each individual. Users get regular, focused material that targets their area of interest.
Once the research is disseminated, a vast range of experts are able to comment on it. The peer review system has its problems, such as academics agreeing only with colleagues who share their views. By opening research up to the crowd, Grey Lit Matters hopes to broaden the feedback and discussion on scientific research.
As it works at raising a $500,000 seed round, Grey Lit Matters is now piloting its platform with a few researchers and it hopes a full launch on two fronts in the third quarter of this year. First, it plans to open up the platform to a broader range of individual researchers. Second, it hopes to strike a deal with a research organization, such as a hospital, which accelerate the growth of the company.
Meanwhile, Cole and five teammates on Grey Lit Matters hope to work with organizations in one area of research so that international researchers in that field become early adopters of the platform. She is talking with groups involved in autism for such a purpose.
“We’re having discussions with several departments at local hospitals … and two disease organizations,” said Cole. “I’d like our first vertical to be a cause that has global impact.”