Is your research multiplayer? (Descign Master Plan - Step 2)

Collaboration is essential

This blog post discusses Step 2 of the Descign’s Master Plan as mentioned in our earlier posts. We explore the importance of collaboration in research and the current problems faced during collaboration. We also discuss Descign’s approach to improving collaboration using standardization and automation.  

A quick recap of our 4-step master plan to exponentially accelerate research:

Step 1 - Automate Documentation

Step 2 - Enable Seamless Collaboration 

Step 3 - AI co-pilot 

Step 4 - Solve Moonshots 

Let’s dive right into it.

Why is collaboration essential for your research?

Scientists spend decades researching on narrow topics with the hope of making a significant contribution. Their contributions are usually published in prestigious scientific journals and if you take notice these publications rarely have one or two authors. The average number of authors has increased from around 9 per paper to over 25 per paper between 2012-2016 . The paper which described the measurement of the Higgs Boson’s mass had over 5000 authors. 

The reason for having so many authors or contributors is that science is a multidisciplinary venture. A breakthrough usually requires a lot of funding, a very highly motivated team of people, with a unique set of skills (biology, chemistry, medicine, engineers etc.) and a lot of resources (facilities and instruments) at their disposal. It is a rarity to find money, talent and resources all under a single roof. So it makes complete sense for scientific teams to collaborate as it gives them access to talent and resources. 

Collaboration can be in the form of different academic/industrial labs participating together in projects or in the form of partly/fully outsourcing research to contract research organizations (CROs) as a paid service. Even the largest pharma, biotechnology and biomedical companies outsource to partners globally. Different reports estimate that between 60-80% of the research is outsourced. We expect this trend to continue and in fact increase in the coming decade as the research funding decreases and the cost of research increases.

Why is research collaboration especially difficult?

Collaboration as we do it today, is a highly inefficient process with multiple pain points. Large enterprises spend considerable effort and resources putting in place processes to collaborate “effectively” which smaller enterprises and startups can't. Let's try to simulate outsourcing of a project as a small enterprise or startup to understand the basic process and the pain points. 

  • Partner Discovery - In the first stage, we need to find potential  research partners (labs/CROs) with a complementary set of skills and resources. We can  use LinkedIn or use curated lists of research service providers on marketplaces. Prospecting is a hassle and researchers avoid this  by partnering with “Friends” which can limit their option of finding the most suitable partner.   
  • Agreements - After narrowing down to a potential partner, we will need to work with a legal and finance team to assess the feasibility (expertise, compliance requirements like certifications), scope of work, intellectual property rights, prepare the necessary documentation (based on geography and type of work) and manage payments. Unfortunately, there are no standardized agreements for small players in the industry. This stage  is a very time consuming process (can take upto 6 months) and distracts the scientist from focussing on research.
  • Project Management - In this stage, we  break down our project into milestones and tasks for each partner for effective management. However, it is difficult to track progress between milestones without putting in a considerable effort and time in following up on emails or tele-conferencing. This is a common problem across technical projects and it poses the danger of veering off course and losing ‘time & money’.   
  • Reporting - In the final stage, we will need to consolidate all the data and results generated as a part of the project. There are no standardized protocols, formats or tools for sharing data and results between teams in a seamless and secure manner.. Knowledge transfer ends up taking  a hit because of poor documentation and report preparation  becomes very time consuming.

How can we improve research collaboration? 

At Descign, we realized early, that building a platform that manages the research for a single team isn't going to cut it. Since a large portion of research is outsourced, our platform should enable collaborations across multiple teams. Researchers should be able to manage the entire life cycle of their project with the same ease, whether they perform it in-house or with collaborators globally. 

Our approach was simple - Standardize and Automate wherever possible to make collaboration a seamless experience. (We love automation at Descign!) 

The pain points in Partner Discovery and Agreements  can  be solved by using a marketplace for research services. However, current marketplaces do not solve the problem as expected. We believe that the missing piece of the puzzle is the lack of a research management tool in these marketplaces. So, we went ahead and built a marketplace which is tightly integrated with our research management module. Connecting the research management and marketplace modules gave us unexpected superpowers. For example, our platform can extract a team's outsourcing requirements and use it to find the most suitable research partner. This coupled to the standardized agreements, pre-defined milestones and payment management can shave off 3-6 months of a research project timeline. The pain point in Project Management is circumvented by providing real-time and automated progress updates with complete control over data and intellectual property. Reporting is addressed by generating automated granular reports and allowing complete portability of the research project’s life cycle between labs. These upgrades in the collaboration process give users the advantage of outsourcing their research with confidence to any lab across the world, in a seamless and secure manner. 

A web-browser, decent wifi, our platform and an investor is all you need to perform cutting-edge science with research partners globally. The final question - What is stopping you now?

In the next blog, we will discuss Step 3 - AI co-pilot. If you would like to learn more in detail about how our marketplace works and how it integrates with a research management module, please drop us a message. We at Descign love collaborating with fellow innovators who want to use technology to decentralize research so we can democratize it. So connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter or drop us an email at

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