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Award-winning academic research search engine metaBUS to launch in June

Research tool can perform meta-analysis in minutes, giving academics unprecedented opportunity to quickly understand published findings
May 24, 2016
Piers Steel, Distinguished Research Chair in Advanced Business Leadership at the Haskayne School of Business, is a co-founder of the groundbreaking search engine metaBUS. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Piers Steel, Distinguished Research Chair in Advanced Business Leadership at the Haskayne School of Business, is a co-founder of the groundbreaking search engine metaBUS. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The interface for metaBUS, a new online search engine that performs meta-analysis in minutes.

A trailblazing online search engine that will save researchers years of time while conducting meta-analysis will be unveiled next week at the University of Calgary.

After four years of development and testing by three founding institutions — the University of Calgary, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) — the search engine metaBUS is now fully available to researchers around the world. Its creators believe it is the largest collection of curated, published research findings of its kind.

A launch party will take place June 2 at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom to showcase metaBUS to scholars from around the country and give them the opportunity to meet the founders. (Register here to attend).

“By using metaBUS, summarizing research will now only take minutes rather than years and puts the focus on curating new knowledge rather than trying to sift through past findings,” says co-founder Piers Steel, Distinguished Research Chair in Advanced Business Leadership at the Haskayne School of Business.

Never-before-seen level of research curation

Academics currently spend months or even years combing through published research journals to do meta-analysis — the process of summarizing past findings in a given field — as they conduct research. The team behind metaBUS has coded nearly one million journal findings, dating back to 1980, into metaBUS in the fields of organizational psychology and human resources.

Instead of manually finding, reading and summarizing journal articles, metaBUS users will be able to create field level summaries in real time by classifying metadata to achieve a never-before-seen level of research curation.

MetaBUS is free for registered users and includes some data from journal articles that are currently locked behind subscription paywalls.

Co-founder Frank Bosco from Virginia Commonwealth University said metaBUS’s ambitious goal is to change the speed and collaboration of science.

Expands the scope of academic research

“MetaBUS expands the scope of academic research to an unprecedented size and scale and, we believe, will enable scientists to answer large-scale calibrating questions that were previously impossible to address,” said Bosco. 

It has already been hailed as a world-leading idea by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business as a top Innovations that Inspire and winner of the 2013 Digging into Data Challenge.

Krista Uggerslev from NAIT, a metaBUS co-founder, says the group is eager to show off metaBUS and hopes interested users will sign up to use it.  

“This project was a significant undertaking in open science — helping to make research findings more accessible to public policy decision-makers, business leaders, and for the public understanding of science,” said Uggerslev.

MetaBUS was developed with funding from around North America including the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business at the Haskayne School of Business, the National Science Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the SHRM Foundation and the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Why metaBUS?

A: One of the largest challenges researchers face is to sift through the mountain of existing data in a way that is useful. So much has already been studied that researchers must wade through decades of journal findings, determine their relevance and it can take months or years before the researcher understands what questions have already been studied, where knowledge gaps exist and what the existing research results show. With metaBUS, research that took months or years can be completed in seconds or minutes.

Q: How does it work?

A: The metaBUS approach is to take every scientific finding from every article over the last 25 years across all of the research journals in a field, and tag them into a map of everything that has been studied by researchers around the world. Through selecting any topic on the map, researchers can link to every article with data on that topic and see what else has been examined in relation to that topic.

By selecting any two topics, researchers can instantly see a synthesis of all of the studies on that topic, and then explore differences by country of origin, gender and so on. Only once all of the findings in an area are in one system can big science questions can be answered. Now with metaBUS researchers can readily integrate what has already been scientifically examined, and see what research questions they should tackle next.

Q: How is this different than Google Scholar?

A: Google Scholar lets users search the text of published scholarly literature. MetaBUS takes the next step. The journal articles published in the metaBUS database have had their findings coded so with their data readily available, metaBUS enables researchers to create field level summaries of numerous published studies at once.  

Q: How much does metaBUS cost?

A: Currently, there is no cost for registered users to use metaBUS. To register, go here.

Q: What’s next, where do you see this going? The next step is to code journal findings from more fields. In the coming months and with additional funding, the team wants to expand into the following areas: innovation, strategic management and international business. Eventually, the team hopes to enable all of science to benefit from the approach.

A: An interface for practitioners (non-academics) is also in development and is currently in beta stage. It is funded by a SHRM Foundation Research grant described in more detail here