To help scientists make those connections, Meta's AI crunches through millions of papers, taking note of common citations, patterns and topics. It also profiles its users and offers up suggestions in the same way Amazon might recommend certain items for you to buy once you've made a purchase.
But researchers aren't only using Meta to discover related research and data. They can also use it to help find funding and connect with other researchers with whom they can collaborate. The search tool can also help funding organizations identify and contact authors to back future research.
"It seeks out the most relevant or impactful studies in a scientific area the moment they are published, and finds patterns in the literature on a scale that no human being could accomplish alone," Cori Bargmann, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's president of science, and CTO Brian Pinkerton said in a Facebook post.
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Chen is eager to see if the network delivers on its promise.
"Identifying influential papers or trending research would also be super helpful," he said. "There's such a staggering amount of research being published that it's impossible to actually read any sizable fraction of it."
A smart search network could help Chen's team separate the wheat from the chaff among the perpetually growing body of research in his field — modeling RNA folding structures in an effort to better understand how viruses ransack the body.
Researchers like Chen currently rely on institutional access to services, such as Web of Science or Scopus, which are expensive and largely inaccessible to researchers associated with cash-strapped institutions, such as those in the developing world. They are also designed in such a way that you have to know exactly what you're looking for to find it.
A smarter search engine - particularly one that's free — could be a considerable boost for science.
"What's intriguing is the claim that they use AI to index based on perceived scientific relevance rather than just who cited what and how many times," said Chen. "That would be huge."
Beyond the field of science, the Meta product could also help schools by offering smart searches to make certain that students are seeing the latest relevant research in their subjects.
Meta is currently enhancing its product, and plans to make its tools free to all within a few months.
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