Knight News Challenge: TrySci

Knight News Challenge

Rob Luzynski and Megan Lacroix: Team TrySci

TrySci: Data, Catered to You

Requested Amount: $50,000

Project Description: Have you ever found it difficult to navigate through various journals and scientific databases in order to find the information that you’re looking for? Do you often feel that scientific data is shrouded in a cloud of jargon making it inaccessible for the common person? If you said yes to either of these questions then TrySci may be the answer you have been looking for. By combining aspects of a social media platform with the scientific data relevant to your average person, TrySci is an application that makes finding site-specific and topic-specific data easier and more interactive than ever before. First, users will begin by completing a profile that includes demographic information, interests related to environmental science data such as water quality, air quality, habitat status, etc., and general geographic area. By using this information, TrySci will connect users to any relevant data and will alert them when new data has been published. By proving concise summaries of the reports, TrySci bypasses the time and effort required to navigate dense scientific articles and instead gets straight to the point with the information that users need and want. Whether it’s a mother looking for the level of pollution in local waterways or a climate scientist curious about the latest atmospheric updates, TrySci is for people of all demographics and levels of scientific literacy. In addition, TrySci will act as a social media platform in which people can connect with others based on similar interests and share updates they receive with other who may want to see certain information. Finally, TrySci will also make use of QR codes at certain sites that we partner with to provide site-specific data for people visiting on vacation or in their work. Overall, TrySci is both a resource for data consumers that have trouble accessing information as well as for scientists who wish to increase their readership and share their information with a wider audience than only the science community. Our business model will be discussed in a later section which will explain how we will sustain our business once the grant money runs out.

 

Expected Time to Complete Project: This project will require a substantial amount of time, energy, and resources to be sufficiently developed, but we are confident that the end product will be worth the effort. We expect the project to at least take one year, perhaps more depending on several variables but hopefully not much longer. For this project we will first need to develop the app itself by hiring a team of computer engineers. Secondly, we will begin accumulating scientific studies and data (starting only in Michigan, but could be eventually expanded) from various resources including databases, journals, and government organization. As we are developing the product itself we will begin doing outreach and contacting potential investors/interested parties for money and possible collaborations.

 

What Unmet Need Does Your Project Address?: The Scientific community is often faced with the unfortunate reality that outsides of college students, scientific professors, and others within the scientific community, not many people take the time to read dense scientific articles in order to gain information. On the other hand, average citizens in need of scientific data and reports do not have a good way of accessing this data without first navigating through a dense cloud of scientific jargon. It is here that TrySci comes in, providing an outlet for scientists to disperse their data while simultaneously giving consumers a quick and easy way to access the information they need. In addition, with TrySci’s site-specific QR codes tourists and scientists on research trips can easily access relevant information without having to search through various databases and journals.

 

Interviews: For our research we interviewed 4 possible users of various backgrounds to assess the need for our app. The questions were

1) Do you feel up to date with recent scientific data related to your interests and geographic area?

2) Would you know where to go if you needed certain scientific data?

3) Do you feel that scientific data is often inaccessible to average people due to its use of jargon and dense statistics?

4) Would you be interested in an easier and interactive way to access scientific data related to your geographic area and interests?

The subjects ranged from a computer science major to a PITE major, and included sophomores juniors and seniors. From the four interviews we gathered some interesting data, including:

1) Interest and prior knowledge related to scientific data correlated strongly with the person’s major (PITE students knew more, computer science knew less, etc.)

2) Regardless of major and other background information, each person expressed the opinion that A) scientific knowledge was difficult for the average person to access and B) that they would be interested in an easier and more interactive way of accessing information.

Subjects: Julia Goodhart, PITE sophomore, female, 610-772-3595. Kyle Grace, Earth Science Senior, Male, 810-858-7020. Chad Grimaldi, Computer Science sophomore, male, 248-882-2423.

 

Potential Market: Our potential market is very large because it includes a wide array of individuals including scientists, environmental activists, science journalists, and concerned citizens in general. With the social media aspect we could also expand to people that are not exclusively devoted to scientific data, and there is even a potential for TrySci to be used by science teachers at both the high school and college level for curriculum enrichment and keeping themselves and their students up to date with the most recent scientific information.

 

Potential Competitors:  Putting Michigan’s environmental research in one place that makes it easy for all people to read and understand. We are also trying to reach a broader scope of people to get them interested in Michigan’s environment by encouraging scientific literacy and environmental involvement. To our knowledge there is no statewide data base tied into an application for phones or tablets that can be searched for scientific research by keyword about the state of michigan. There are environmental research sites like the Department of Environmental Quality (http://www.michigan.gov/deq), and news updates about the environment in Michigan like Environment Michigan (http://www.environmentmichigan.org/), and even a site dedicated to updating people on Michigan’s air quality called Enviroflash (http://miair.enviroflash.info/). Enviroflash has an application for phones and tablets but is only about the air quality in Michigan.

 

How Will Your Idea be Financially Sustainable?:  Throughout the initial development of our project we will be looking for potential investors and stakeholders in the project for the time when the grant money eventually runs out. In addition, if needed, we will pursue environmentally and scientifically related companies and have them advertise on our app. Lastly, if our application becomes popular enough to warrant such a plan, TrySci could serve as a resource for scientists to gain an audience for their papers and research which could make us able to charge both users and scientists for access to the application. Although this last plan would only be possible in the late stages of the project, if the app’s trajectory goes as planned it could certainly be a feasible option.

 

Why is Our Team Best Suited for this Project?: By combining the strengths of an environmental science major with the creative edge of an art and design student, our team is able to approach the project from multiple angles which allows us to create a product that is simultaneously engaging and useful to the general public as well as respected by the scientific community for its rigor and education-driven focus. As a team we work together to find sensible, out-of-the-box solutions to issues related to our apps main focus as well as other issues that will inevitably arise throughout the development and production process.

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3 Responses to “Knight News Challenge: TrySci”

  1. I think this is a great idea. I often wish I knew what was going on in my field of study without spending hours dragging through studies, or relying on professors to keep me updated.

    One challenge this project might face is that most scientific journals often charge a subscription fee to view articles, or charge per article. We as UM students get free access to pretty much everything, but I’m not sure how a partnership with the Journals and the app would be carried out. Perhaps a contract could be worked out but that would take some time.

    Again I think this idea is great. I often want to tell someone about recent research I heard of in passing, but then can’t remember it or didn’t fully understand what was going on. This app would provide the handy information I was missing.

  2. I agree that the idea of translating up-to-date science for the public has a lot of appeal.

    As I read your proposal, I stopped at the part where you were reporting on your interviews with potential users. First, all of your questions are yes-no questions. Some of them are a bit leading. It’s better to ask open-ended questions and focus on fully exploring the problem that these people have in your interviews. Also, you interview only college students. They’re not your primary market. Try to talk to a wider range of potential users. This kind of market research is really key if you were to move forward and develop this idea.

    In addition, you might want to look for potential partners on developing this idea. These might include the database company Proquest, which is based in Ann Arbor; Michigan’s “research corridor” universities, UM, MSU and Wayne State; or Michigan-based foundations such as the Kellogg Foundation or the Mott Foundation.

    You’ve got the beginnings of a great proposal here. Keep thinking about it, asking people about it, and making it better. Good work.

  3. I think that this is a great idea. Often scientific discoveries are inaccessible to the average citizen. Going to the University of Michigan we have a wild advantage in terms of accessing scientific journals and reports. These sorts of databases can be quite costly to access without the assistance of a major university.

    One challenge that I did think of when reading your article was how you were going to compile the information? would you do a break down of environmental topics and then list skimmed versions of article findings? were you going to post the data as facts? Maybe you could make it a little more clear on how the information would be organized and presented to someone using your site.

    Another challenge that I wondered about when reading your application was how you would decide what was published on your site and what was not. Scientific data is really cool but it also tends to change a lot. Most science is an evolving hypothesis and many articles contradict each other. Scientific data can also become political depending on who is funding the research. I was curious to know how you would decide which articles would be published and how you would ensure that the results you were perpetuating were accurate? I also wondered if you would actively be removing data as it was found to be inaccurate or if articles became outdated.

    I think this is a great idea and could function as a great tool for the public. Scientific data deserves to be accessible to everyday citizens. I think there are some details you could work out to make this a soundproof and solid idea! Best of Luck!

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