Imagine a world where the vast sea of research information is organized, knowledge gaps are illuminated, and scientific discovery is accelerated. Welcome to Expontum, a groundbreaking platform on a mission to reshape the way we approach research.
Expontum is a free, open-access platform which is being accessed by researchers from over 95 countries. Its primary goal is to simplify the process of organizing the world’s research information, ultimately contributing to the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) processes.
This platform was created by Ryan Saenz, a former researcher in both basic science (specifically neuroscience) and clinical fields (in medical devices and pharmaceutical anesthesiology).
The aim of Expontum is to expedite the process of reviewing scientific literature, reduce redundant research efforts, and accelerate the discovery of treatments and innovations that have the potential to eradicate all diseases during our lifetime.RYAN SAENZ founder, Expontum.
Initially centered around biomedical research, the platform has future plans to incorporate peer-reviewed research articles from various disciplines, enhancing its ability to offer robust interdisciplinary insights. This expansion is projected to be completed by the end of 2023. Notably, in 2022, the platform achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first in the world to release comprehensive research knowledge gaps on a large scale.
Whether you’re a seasoned researcher, a curious mind, or someone passionate about the future of knowledge, Expontum welcomes you to join in this exciting journey of research innovation.
Now, let’s dive deeper into the world of Expontum with its visionary founder, Ryan Saenz.
Behind the Platform: Interviewing Expontum’s Visionary Founder Ryan Saenz
We have the privilege of talking to Ryan Saenz, the brilliant mind behind Expontum—a revolutionary platform designed to transform the way we navigate and utilize the vast repository of research data. In this blog post, we embark on a journey into the heart of Expontum, delving deep into its mission, methodologies, and the boundless potential it holds.
As we navigate the intricate landscape of research alongside Mr. Saenz, we’ll uncover the intricate threads that makeup Expontum’s tapestry—a tapestry woven with passion, innovation, and the unyielding desire to usher in a new age of discovery.
Whether you’re a seasoned researcher, a curious mind, or someone intrigued by the power of knowledge, this interview promises to be a captivating odyssey.
Join us as we unravel the enigma of Expontum, discover the tools it offers to accelerate research and peer into the future of knowledge organization. The stage is set, the spotlight is on, and our conversation with Ryan Saenz is about to begin. The path ahead is paved with insights, possibilities, and the promise of a world where answers to the most pressing questions are just a click away.
Q1:: Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Ryan. To kick things off, could you share with our readers a bit about your background and what inspired you to create Expontum?
- Thank you for having me, Dr. Rajpurohit. I have been involved in different areas of research over the past 10 years starting with some basic science research on drug addiction relating to the associated neural pathways in the brain. I went on to do some work in clinical anesthesiology and then spent many years in research administration in university technology commercialization and research-centred corporate and foundation relations departments. There I got to view research at a much higher level and was able to view some of the issues that researchers encountered from a funding and project management perspective. Over the years I’ve gotten to spend the most amount of time in the areas of biological sciences, healthcare, engineering, business, and social sciences. What inspired me most to create Expontum was that the rate of scientific advancement in the basic science biological science area as a whole was pretty slow compared to other areas like engineering who have fully embraced artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up their research. I saw that other research areas I worked in as well could definitely benefit from AI and ML and wanted to start work on something that would significantly help speed up the pace of scientific discovery.
I have written a few articles on Research Grant Funding which include Writing Research Grant Proposals, CV for Research grants, Taxation issues with Research Grants, and Insurance for Research Grants. Please visit these articles here.
Q2: Could you explain the inspiration behind the name “Expontum” and how it relates to your platform’s mission?
- Originally I had the name of “AI Research Engine” as a placeholder name but eventually decided to create a more unique research type of name that had some type of scientific meaning. I really wanted to include something in there that referenced exponential and had worked with a few researchers before on quantum computing related projects. I liked the combination of exponential and quantum since one of the definitions of quantum is the smallest amount of energy and if researchers were able to utilize advanced AI/ML, they could utilize the smallest amount of energy to achieve exponentially quicker and higher quality scientific discoveries.
Q3: Can you tell us a bit about your background in neuroscience and medical device/pharmaceutical anesthesiology research and what inspired you to create Expontum?
- Yes, I had spent some time in a basic science neuroscience research laboratory where I got to help with a few projects relating to drug addiction research and the pathways in the brain that were most impacted (e.g. HPA axis, nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area). There I really formed a good basic understanding of how basic science research projects were formulated and tied back to more practical applications. During my time in clinical anesthesiology, I had gotten to help with a few medical device studies around laryngeal mask airways, pharmaceutical studies around postoperative recovery, and other operating room studies. From these two experiences and my work in research administration, I saw how long it took to formulate research ideas, how long it took to test these ideas, and how difficult it was to publish academic research. I thought as an industry, there was a lot of systematic improvement that could be done to help quantify and determine what research projects were most needed next, what areas of research had been “over-researched” and what types of blindspots in research were not even being thought of.
Visit my blog post on ” Writing an Effective Research Paper with 11 Major Sections”. This post will help you in writing a Research paper from the problem formulation to a conclusion.
Q4: What specific challenges or frustrations did you encounter in your research career that led to the idea of Expontum?
- I found it hard to quickly identify a good research project to pursue. Without reading tens to hundreds of articles in a given research area, it’s hard to know confidently that the type of work you are pursuing is unique, under-researched, and has knowledge gaps that need to be looked into more. I also saw a lot of correlation vs. causation misinformation when it came to research results on the internet and wanted to create something that addressed that as well.
I have written a blog posts on ” 10 Key steps for Effectively Reading Research Papers” and “Which Research Papers I should Avoid Reading”. These two articles will help you in effectively reading good quality research papers in minimal time.
Q5: Expontum’s mission is to simplify the organization of research information. How do you envision this mission contributing to the fields of AI and ML?
- I have worked with many researchers, engineers, data scientists, and others in the past that specialized in AI and ML and try to incorporate a lot of those best practices into this website. The way Expontum is currently set up, the Knowledge Gaps Strength and Subjects Studied Before Strength is essentially a very simplified reinforcement learning metric that will be higher the more often the code I run suggests that to be a knowledge gap or finds a project that has been completed before with those two subjects. Overtime, there will be more and more AI/ML best practices incorporated into the website and more inclusion of statistical values to explain knowledge gaps and subjects that have been studied before. I would like this site to be the most AI/ML advanced in the scientific research space and believe we have the dedication to achieve that.
Q6: Could you elaborate on the long-term vision of Expontum, especially regarding automated research project generation and virtual experiments?
- I would love for Expontum to be a place where researchers can confidently come to the site and know that there is a large likelihood that they will leave the site with a few future project ideas that they can pursue. A long term goal I have is to translate these knowledge gaps into actionable triggers that research equipment, especially in the engineering and basic science space, can utilize to automatically run projects on their own. Related to this, something that is not accessible on the website yet but is in development is to be able to process research results information from open access articles (ex. randomized controlled trial results) and be able to build out a model that would be able to attribute cause and effect relationships between two variables. From there, having a functionality to be able to test what possibly may happen if an experiment was conducted in real life based on all publicly available research information w/statistical values (ex. if you were trying to test what impact a patient taking a blood pressure medication would be, the results our engine would give is that the blood pressure would decrease along with other common side effects).
Q7: Expontum is free and open access. Can you explain the importance of this approach and how it aligns with your goals?
- In order for researchers to quickly make high-quality scientific discoveries across the world, they need to access information without having to pay anything so that cost is not a barrier to conducting world-class research. In order to achieve this, we only utilize publicly available research information (e.g. Article titles, abstracts for open access research articles, etc.) in order to comply with copyright regulations, especially for those research articles and publications that are only available if they are purchased.
Q8: You mentioned plans for ads on the site to support long-term scientific goals. Could you tell us more about how these funds will be used and how they tie into your mission?
- We have been experiencing fast researcher growth for the website, going from about 200 researchers per month in July 2023 to about 1000 researchers in August 2023. For the next year or two, our servers should be able to handle all researchers using the website at minimal cost. As demand continues to increase, we may in the future need to display ads on the site in order to purchase more server space so all researchers can access the site for free. We’ll display these ads to the minimum extent possible and any leftover money will be utilized to conduct additional research that will connect our knowledge gaps software to different types of research equipment.
Q9: You mentioned that the most important metric of success for Expontum is global life expectancy. How do you measure the impact of Expontum on global life expectancy, and how do you see it making a difference?
- We want to take a leadership role within the scientific community when it comes to speeding up the process of discovering treatments that will increase life expectancy. We are setting up the building blocks to be able to conduct scientific experiments as fast as possible with built-in scientific and engineering guardrails. As we progress with work that ties in our generated knowledge gaps and what research has been completed before with commonly used research equipment, we expect that this can significantly speed up the rate of scientific discovery, especially in the medical and engineering space.
Q10: Could you provide more details about the methodology Expontum uses to identify knowledge gaps and research attributes?
- Yes, we start with a database we have developed of around 6,000,000 words that are commonly utilized in research (e.g. Heart disease, capacitor, E. coli, etc.). Most of these words come from open-source lists from different research areas that are publicly available. For each article in our research database, we will only use publicly available information to tag what work has been done and everything currently on the site is from article title information. From there we’ll tag each word in our database for each article and that is the basis for what shows up on each project page. From there we’ll compare what was studied for each project (ex. If “temperature” and “fever” were both words in the title, we’ll add in that those projects were studied together and if there are other projects that also have those two subjects, the count will increase for that combination. Research attributes are a work in progress but are supposed to be common words that relate to the project but aren’t really relevant to cause and effect relationships (ex. Location and directions like increased or decreased). Overtime research attributes may be combined with subjects just to simplify this initial design. Knowledge gaps are generated by looking at all subjects studied for a project and looking at other projects that have those same subjects. Using the previous example, if we were generating a “temperature” knowledge gap, we’d look at all projects that have “fever” as a subject and suggest those subjects as a possible knowledge gap if there hasn’t been a project with that completed yet. If “fever” was studied in “COVID” in a previous study and “COVID” hadn’t been studied with “temperature”, then a knowledge gap for “COVID” and “temperature” would generate.
Q11: How do you ensure the accuracy and quality of the data in your research database, which is growing rapidly?
- There have been about 20,000 lines of code built out in order to process data at various stages of our process and there are a lot of rules built out that help to ensure that research subjects are tagged accurately and that the information displayed on the website is accurate as well.
Q12: How can researchers and scientists from different parts of the world contribute to Expontum or get involved in its development?
- The quickest way is to definitely submit feedback on the site in one of our feedback buttons and forms or to submit an email with any suggested changes to [email protected]. We are constantly looking at open-source tools and datasets and would encourage researchers and scientists to ensure their peer-reviewed research is made as publicly available as possible so we can find articles and add to our database.
Here I suggest my readers to visit my article on Open Access Journals: What do you Need to Know as a Researcher?. Open Access Journals help you to keep your content available for free to the research community.
Q13: You mentioned feedback submission on the website. How important is community feedback in improving Expontum’s services?
- It is important so that we can identify trends in what data our automated processes generate and build out rules to avoid incorrect knowledge gaps and suggestions. There are buttons on our knowledge gap pages and our project pages in order to let us know if the information is valuable or not so we can adjust our long-term strategies quickly. We are also very flexible and may be able to incorporate any suggested changes or features within our development roadmap.
Q14: Expontum initially focuses on biomedical research. Can you share more about the timeline and plans for incorporating research articles from other disciplines?
- By December 2023, we’re on pace to add in another 200 million research publications from all academic disciplines with subjects tagged, knowledge gaps created, and documenting which projects had been completed before.
Q15: What are some of the challenges and opportunities in expanding Expontum’s scope?
- The biggest area of opportunity is to increase the accuracy of the knowledge gaps created and to show a percent confidence in the knowledge gap created. We plan on increasing accuracy over time by adding in rules that will help decrease the amount of invaluable knowledge gaps and increase the amount of valuable knowledge gaps based off best practices established by different industries. In addition, future work relating to identifying cause and effect relationships in research and research equipment work will be extremely complex but definitely achievable.
- We utilize these sources, OpenAlex and other scientific sources to find peer reviewed article information and to identify research subjects and attributes that will be utilized in our data intake process.
Q17: Are there any ongoing or potential collaborations with pharmaceutical, medical device, or biotech companies to translate research findings into treatments?
- There are currently not any ongoing collaborations in this area and are focusing our efforts in building out publicly available and extremely high quality knowledge gap generation and research project automation functionality over the next decade.
Q18: What are some upcoming features or improvements that users can look forward to on Expontum?
- Over the next few years, there will be more and more research subjects included, updated database based off of new peer reviewed research projects, more in-depth insights looking at research results, and suggested future projects based off of what has been completed in the past.
Q19: How do you envision the user experience evolving over time?
- The design will continue to get more sleek over time with quicker page load times and more relevant knowledge gaps.
Q20: Expontum is all about data and research, but let’s switch gears for a moment. What’s your favourite non-scientific hobby or pastime that helps you unwind?
- Going on walks and runs around the neighborhood!
Q21: In the world of research, there are often surprises and unexpected discoveries. Can you share a funny or quirky moment from your journey with Expontum?
- Yes there have been a few times over the past few years where I have accidentally deleted large parts of our databases, front end code, and other important parts of the website due to accidentally unplugging the hard drive, not saving work, or due to not being careful with executing code. After my first two months of work, I was uninstalling software on my computer and accidentally deleted everything since my work was in one of the folders as part of the software. This has made me a lot more careful over time!
I have written a blog post on Data Backup Strategies for Your PhD/Research Data. This article will help you in effectively taking the backups of your research works.
Thank you, Mr.Ryan, for taking the time to provide us with a fascinating glimpse into the world of Expontum and your vision for the future of research. Your insights have been invaluable, and it’s evident that Expontum is poised to make a significant impact in the realm of knowledge organization and scientific discovery.
As we conclude our conversation, I’m reminded of the profound impact that dedicated individuals like you can have on the world. Your commitment to accelerating research, reducing redundancy, and ultimately striving for a healthier, more innovative future is truly commendable.
To our readers, I encourage you to explore Expontum further, visit their website, and become a part of this exciting journey towards advancing research. Together, we can unlock the mysteries of knowledge and contribute to solving some of humanity’s most pressing challenges.
As we part ways today, let’s remember that the pursuit of knowledge knows no bounds. The possibilities are limitless, and with platforms like Expontum, the path to discovery is illuminated. Stay curious, stay inspired, and keep exploring.