Field research, such as that conducted for clinical trials or disease surveillance, is essential to address the many pervasive health issues in developing countries. It relies on extensive collaboration between research institutions and groups on the ground. Today the Global Health Network launched a new tool, Site-Finder, that will help build these vital relationships by connecting research groups with research sites around the world. This new network actually uses technology adapted from dating websites to suggest suitable collaborations, and will inform sites of new studies which are relevant to them.
As the London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine explains on their blog, "Site-Finder provides a free, online facility for research sites to promote themselves to potential collaborators and sponsors. In parallel, research groups planning studies can let others know about their ideas and that they are looking for others to work with."
The Sabin Vaccine Institute participated in the working group that developed Site-Finder, taking it from a concept to a fully functional platform with partners from the University of Oxford, Aeras, Drugs for Negected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (GATB), International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and PATH. More than fifty research sites have already signed up during the pilot phase of Site-Finder, including Sabin's field site in Brazil, where researchers are studying helminth infections and testing candidates for a human hookworm vaccine.
There are several ways for interested individuals and groups to get involved, listed here. A press announcement from the Global Health Network, which is an online science park for research groups working in Global Health, is included below.
The Global Health Network announces the launch of 'Site-Finder', a novel application to facilitate research collaborations
The Global Health Network announces the launch of 'Site-Finder', a novel application of digital technology to facilitate research collaborations in developing countries
The Global Health Network is delighted to announce the launch of Site-Finder, a free and open access online facility which enables research sites to promote themselves to potential collaborators and sponsors. In parallel, research groups planning studies can let others know about their ideas and that they are looking for others to work with. Sponsors with trials can also conduct highly detailed and informative searches for trial sites that are tailored to their specific needs. Using technology adapted from dating websites, Site-Finder will automatically suggest suitable collaborations, and will inform sites of new studies which are relevant to them.
Site-Finder has been in a pilot phase for six months. During this time over fifty research sites have signed up, many making use of the ability to add photos and documentation such as training certificates. Research sites who have already posted on Site-Finder report that they were keen to sign up so as to gain maximum exposure and more opportunities to engage in research which would help address the disease burdens that have the highest impact to their communities. One investigator commented: “We are a young study site very keen to get involved in new projects. Site-Finder gives the opportunity to inform others about our site and experience”, while others have labelled the resource “an extraordinary assistance” and “an innovation”.