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CHIPS Articles: DARPA launches social networking collaboration site to speed science and tech discovery

DARPA launches social networking collaboration site to speed science and tech discovery
By CHIPS Magazine - March 20, 2019
DARPA is taking the idea of crowdsourcing to an entirely different level. To unleash the power of social networks for research and development, DARPA is using a novel social media platform purpose-built to quicken the pace of U.S. technology development, it said in a release. Polyplexus was recently launched as a public platform, designed to increase access to scientific evidence and accelerate hypothesis development, research proposal generation, and research sponsor engagement. The platform’s real-time interactions and functionality are designed to dramatically shorten the time between the emergence of concepts and the submission of worthy proposals.

The platform facilitates contacts among experts across academic disciplines so they can boost novel research opportunities together. Beta-launched for academics in 2018, Polyplexus is now open to the broader R&D community and features an initial offering of research topics for collaboration and potential funding. DARPA is encouraging participation from anyone who is interested in sharing and learning about emerging science and technology, including researchers, practitioners, and even retirees.

“Crowdsourcing on the internet works when the solution exists and can be found,” said John Main, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “However, no amount of crowdsourcing will ever work if it’s a research and development problem that must be solved, because the solution does not yet exist. That’s why we built Polyplexus as a productivity platform rather than a crowdsourcing platform.”

Polyplexus is composed of three integrated components: a public information feed where users can promote interesting research and connect it to other research via tweet-like summary statements called micropubs; a private tool for synthesizing new ideas, known as micropub portfolios; and an incubator environment, DARPA explained. Incubators allow research sponsors in government and industry to post specific topics of interest and find R&D specialists that can propose solutions to their challenges.

Following a 2018 test phase that was restricted to academic researchers, Version 1 of Polyplexus is now open to the public. Researchers and research sponsors across disciplines and industries are invited to sign up and become “Plexors” at https://polyplexus.com/users/login.

During the Beta test phase, DARPA awarded funding to multiple proposals generated by founding members on the platform. Recipients included researchers from the University of Arkansas, Arizona State University, University of North Carolina, University of Miami, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

With the public launch of Polyplexus, DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office intends to fund up to 30 one-year seedling efforts developed through Polyplexus incubators over the next 18 months. These funding opportunities are capped at a maximum of $100,000 each. They will roll out at a pace of approximately two per month.

DARPA just announced the first three Polyplexus incubators focused on Quantum Machine Learning (https://go.usa.gov/xEFpV), Human Learning (https://go.usa.gov/xEFpA), and Strategic Technological Surprise (https://go.usa.gov/xEFpm). To learn more about the incubator topics visit the incubators section on https://Polyplexus.com. Abstracts and proposals resulting from DARPA incubators will be submitted directly to DARPA as specified in the Polyplexus BAA: https://go.usa.gov/xEFpE. Abstracts and proposals are not submitted on the Polyplexus site.

Anyone may create an account and contribute to the public areas of the site. Retired scientists, engineers, and researchers are especially encouraged to continue to share their expertise by engaging as Plexors. Plexors can also contribute suggestions for new features that will be included in Polyplexus Versions 2 and 3, which are planned for development over the next 18 months.

“Polyplexus maintains a balance between public information exchange and protection of private intellectual property,” Main said. “It also creates an avenue for broader participation in DARPA research and development, including by those who aren’t looking for a research project but who have knowledge to contribute, such as retirees.”

DARPA said researchers should monitor the announcement and evolution of each individual incubator on the platform to fully understand the topic, opportunity, and requirements. Follow @polyplexors on both Instagram and Twitter for updated information.

Polyplexus is an open, global platform designed to accelerate access to scientific evidence, hypothesis development, research proposal generation and research sponsor engagement. DARPA image
Polyplexus is an open, global platform designed to accelerate access to scientific evidence, hypothesis development, research proposal generation and research sponsor engagement. DARPA image
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