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The Futurity of University Research

October 6, 2009

Today’s Almanac brought news of Penn’s inclusion as a founding member into the online research portal. Futurity was launched back in March 2009, hosted by the University of Rochester, as an online communication tool for University research. It’s aim is to promote the online dissemination and promotion of scientific, health, environmental, and society news and research using new web-based and social media communication tools.

There has been a lot of buzz among leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector regarding the impact of technology on the social sector, and is reflected in the work of social entrepreneurs. The news of is yet another positive example of how web 2.0 tools can advance knowledge-sharing and collaboration among thought-leaders, researchers, journalists, students, and the general public. In our first study, I’m Not Rockefeller, we gained insight into how high net worth individuals obtained information on giving:

While several HNWP participants have full-time foundation staff supporting their giving decisions, even those with staff did not routinely seek information from the academy or other non-profit organizations involved in the areas in which they gave.

Still, many identified a need for better information and discussed the difficulty of making giving decisions based on the information currently available to them.

Furthermore, there was  uncertainty as to how one might find appropriate research or information without inquiring and then landing on an unwanted phone or email list:

“ What I think would be really interesting [would be] some sort of resource, and there probably is that I don’t know about, where nonprofits would list specific expertise and resources they need and where people could look through that information without having to talk to people on the phone. I don’t mind talking to people, but that would allow me to choose two or three to follow up with so I don’t get on so many mailing lists and e-mail lists and phone lists.”

Web-based information portals like Futurity can serve as a gateway between the University research community and others who wish to make use of their knowledge for social good. Whether you are a journalist doing research for a news story, a research fellow looking for comparative data, or a research center translating available evidence to your audience—here is a potential resource that knocks down the communication walls to uncover the work of professors, scientists, and researchers.

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