Supporting novel biomedical research via multilayer collaboration networks
Applied Network Science
The value of research containing novel combinations of molecules can be seen in many innovative and award-winning research programs. Despite calls to use innovative approaches to address common diseases, an increasing majority of research funding goes toward "safe" incremental research. Counteracting this trend by nurturing novel and potentially transformative scientific research is challenging and it must be supported in competition with established research programs. Therefore, we propose a
... ol that helps to resolve the tension between safe/fundable research vs. high-risk/potentially transformational research. It does this by identifying hidden overlapping interests around novel molecular research topics. Specifically, it identifies paths of molecular interactions that connect research topics and hypotheses that would not typically be associated, as the basis for scientific collaboration. Because these collaborations are related to the scientists' present trajectory, they are low risk and can be initiated rapidly. Unlike most incremental steps, these collaborations have the potential for leaps in understanding, as they reposition research for novel disease applications. We demonstrate the use of this tool to identify scientists who could contribute to understanding the cellular role of genes with novel associations with Alzheimer's disease, which have not been thoroughly characterized, in part due to the funding emphasis on established research.