By Shelley Xu
Stanford’s School of Medicine expanded its social networking this fall and launched the Community Academic Profiles Network (CAP Network), a private, internal social-networking service designed specifically for the medical community at Stanford, including students, faculty and staff members.
The recent launch of CAP Network has integrated the already running profile system, Community Academic Profiles, with a social networking platform.
According to Michael Halaas, chief technology officer at the Information Resources & Technology (IRT) Web and Systems Engineering Department, CAP Network includes profiles with everything from an individual’s photo and contact information to a listing of his or her publications and work experience. On a more interactive level, CAP Network users can post statuses and form groups.
“The reason why we’re in this experiment is because we look at the world around us and we see how social network technologies are changing,” said Henry Lowe, senior associate dean for IRT. “And we see huge potential in an academic setting for enhancing collaboration and communication across the community.”
One unique feature of CAP Network is what is called “similarity matching,” in which the network analyzes the publications of one member and produces the top 10 people on CAP Network with similar publications in order to facilitate collaboration on anything from research projects to presentations. Additionally, users can form private groups to upload documents and share images and websites.
The ultimate goal, according to administrators, is for CAP Network to foster more collaboration.
“This is a platform that allows for very rapid, very transparent collaborating,” Halaas said. “The hope is that it provides collaboration in new ways… and through that we further our science and patient care.”
The initial response to CAP Network’s launch has been mostly positive. According to Lowe, there are now 10,000 profiles on the network.
Following this trend, the main objective for the foreseeable future will be to raise awareness of the network, according to Halaas.
“We intentionally wanted to get something in a reasonably fast framework, get it out in the community and then hear what the community wants and go from there,” Halaas said.
Lowe noted certain expectations for use of the network.
“We anticipate lots of things that happen on email now will happen on this platform,” he said.
For now, CAP Network includes only Stanford community members, with the recent addition of staff members. But expansion is a possibility, Lowe said.
“Our goal is to incrementally expand the community that participates in CAP,” Lowe said. He added that he likes to see more of the larger University community collaborating.
The network has many possibilities for expanded use, including increased ties with Stanford Hospital & Clinics. Though the hospital has already used the profile portion of CAP to help find doctors, the network may lead to increased use.
“We’re definitely looking at adapting and integrating it,” said Chris Furmanski, director of marketing technology and innovation at the hospital.
Creating CAP Network was a process that took many months, according to Halaas and Lowe. The team behind the network partnered with salesforce.com for much of the technology and integrated tightly with CAP itself for many of the social networking features.
Hammering out privacy agreements also took time, according to Halaas.
“We’ve gone to extensive lengths to ensure security and privacy,” Halaas said. “Every user has control over where their information goes. We spent a great deal of time. We have very rigorous agreements that it remains entirely in our control and that it meets all the security standards that are required.”
Regardless of what form the network takes in the future, it has already made an impact.
“I’ve been piloting it in my department for about six months, and now I couldn’t live without it,” Halaas said.