Startup of the Week

Helping Scientists Learn with JRNLclub

Every week, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute elects a Startup of the Week (SOTW). We then invite the founders of these startups to share a blog post with our community. These posts can be inspirational, educational, or entertaining. Founders can share founding stories, resources, lessons, or anything else. 

This blog post was written by Victoria Fang (Grossman School of Medicine ‘19), Co-founder of JRNLclub.

Keeping up to date with the scientific literature is arguably the single most important part of a scientist’s job throughout their career. But it is really difficult. Writes Adam Ruben in Science,

What a strange document a scientific journal article is. We work on them for months or even years. We write them in a highly specialized vernacular that even most other scientists don’t share. We place them behind a paywall and charge something ridiculous, like $34.95, for the privilege of reading them. We so readily accept their inaccessibility that we have to start “journal clubs” in the hopes that our friends might understand them and summarize them for us.

Every year over 1 million biomedical articles are published, and that number just keeps growing. During my Ph.D., I struggled to keep up with this explosion of scientific literature. Frustrated, I googled “how do I keep up with the scientific literature?” Google this and you’ll also find article after article and blog after blog and discussion thread after thread detailing this concern of scientists young and old. Even more resources abound if you ask, “How do you read a scientific paper?” I can’t count of the number of times I downloaded or printed dozens of papers in a frenzy for reading later, but never got around to it. New papers are filled with technical jargon because they represent cutting-edge science, but there had to be a way to make them more palatable.

Towards the end of my M.D./Ph.D. training at NYU, I thought back to conferences I’d attended where I heard so many great short talks. Authors of soon-to-be published work would present their data in context and in an engaging manner, and would highlight future directions of that research. It was a digestible and fun way to get a sense of the state of a field. What a shame that these talks were not more accessible to the broader scientific community.

I was surprised to discover that in 2017, despite the fact that the English-language scientific publishing complex was a $10 billion industry, there were no researcher-focused video platforms presenting recent scientific publications. Why shouldn’t all researchers and students be able to watch new papers as 15 minute videos? Work presented this way would reach far more people. Far more researchers would understand far more science.

A month later, I convinced a few friends to record their research talks and launched JRNLclub from my medical school dorm-room. With my cofounders Nicholas Liao (Stern ’20) and David Cantor (Grossman School of Medicine, ‘19), we have now published well over 100 videos from renowned labs from around the world. Although video summaries cannot replace deep reading of articles that are intimately tied to one’s active research projects, our collection of talks on recent work provides a way to efficiently keep up with new literature and to more easily understand diverse areas of research.

Our mission is to help scientists increase the reach of their findings while making scientific research and discussion more accessible and engaging. We think this simple approach can improve the biomedical world’s ability to learn and discover.