I recently made the decision to study an area that interests me — spiritual experiences. Coincidentally, just as I’d finished writing my first blog post announcing my experiment to study in this way, I was contacted by Austin Krauss from Knowtro which is a free new scientific search engine for research facts.
I was interested in the work they’re doing, and will probably find it useful for my own project, so decided to ask them some questions, covering everything from ‘fake news’ to bridging the gap between mainstream society and academia.
1. Can you explain what Knowtro is in a nutshell?
Knowtro is a “knowledge transfer optimization” tool that transforms long, complex research papers into simple statements. Through Knowtro, users can find and use credible research in seconds to make better life decisions and improve the quality of their work.
2. Why was Knowtro created? What was the driving force behind it?
Knowtro started as an R&D project about 7 years ago before going live with our functional website in 2017. The founder, Sean McMahon, was impassioned about finding a way to make real, empirical research easy to digest. Too many individuals shy away from scientific literature because it’s lengthy, statistically complex, and expensive.
Our driving force? As cliché as it may sound – it’s the people. Individuals literally pay for academic research through their tax dollars yet very rarely see the fruits of those expenses. The results are often circulated among the ivory tower of academia and left out of reach to the public. Knowtro makes it simple. Anyone can visit our platform any find research results that matter to them.
3. What is the process of research being a part of your database and are you affiliated with any specific universities or research centres?
The process of research distillation begins with the journal. At the present, Knowtro focuses only on the top 1/3 of academic journals (by citation factor). We’ve chosen to start with these journals because they are widely considered to be esteemed publications and hold research to rigorous standards. As we grow, however, we will begin to include more journals and also expand disciplines.
The actual process of collecting findings is carried out by a team of specialists and advanced technology. This combination allows us to efficiently expand our database while upholding the integrity of the research.
At the moment, we have no formal relationship with any university. However, we do have students, faculty, and researchers from many educational, for-profit, and non-profit organizations using Knowtro (some are seen on our homepage).
4. Who do you think will find Knowtro useful and why?
Anybody who has a job, emotions (be that well-being, depression, etc.), cares about their family, etc. will find Knowtro useful. Why? We are an ever-growing repository of the world’s best research on these topics (and more!) – for free.
Additionally, many students, teachers, bloggers, and HR/business strategists find Knowtro to be of great service. Through our platform, they are able to discover bite-sized research findings that they can leverage in their work and life. Let’s look at some examples…
- Are you looking to start a mindfulness practice but not convinced it’s worth it? Let’s look at the research…
- Are you a business consultant trying to stop employees from quitting? Let’s look at the research…
- Are you part of a mental health non-profit or a student looking for credible information for a psychology paper? Let’s look at the research…
5. It appears like one of your main aims is bridging the gap between the academic world and mainstream society by providing access to research facts that affect our everyday lives. The categories you have listed are very relevant to us all such as health, emotion, politics, parenting…How will you encourage people to turn to reading scientific research as opposed to biased, misleading, or poorly written pieces of journalism that misuse facts?
I’m glad you asked this question. We live in an age where people are inundated with a constant flux of both reliable and unreliable information and, unfortunately, it’s often hard to discern the two. However, that is beginning to change.
The recent popularity of fake news has birthed many new initiatives focused on stopping:
1) The misuse of information
2) The acceptance of all information
These initiatives, together, will create a long-lasting cultural shift in which individuals actively seek a certain degree of credibility in each piece of information they consume. Examples of these plans range from school classes that teach students to spot fake news to government intervention – the Philippine government recently proposed an Anti-Fake News Bill that seeks to punish anyone who publishes, distributes, circulates, or spreads false information.
6. With information being so readily available, and university fees continuing to soar, how do you see education developing in the future? Do you think more people will opt to study an area of interest independently instead of or alongside traditional education?
This is an interesting question and the response could get long winded. In short, there is a lot going on in education. However, the common thread that weaves together charter schools, homeschools, massive online open courses (MOOC), and other forms of education is that they rely on knowledge.
Somewhere along the lines, the content in each textbook or online courses had to be learned and the scientific process was the base of that learning. Therefore, Knowtro lives outside of the institutions and is irrespective of the changing educational landscape. Knowtro resides in the hands of the user – the individual seeking to acquire knowledge – whether that be in a traditional setting or not.
7. How do you see Knowtro developing in the future and is there anything else you’d like to comment on?
Knowtro is growing into a non-stop-shop for research covering a wide array of subjects. Whether the user is looking for relationship advice or management research, Knowtro has them covered. In the future, we plan to expand the disciplines covered so that a wider variety of users can come to Knowtro and derive value from the site. Additionally, with improved design and customization, users will be able to analyze research in ways never experienced before.
For example, imagine searching for predictors of depression or academic achievement across, specifically, US high school students. With Knowtro, you could obtain this information in seconds, thus improving the efficiency in which data is gathered and analyzed for public policy or personal knowledge.