Lazy Students Unite: MiniManuscript Wants To Be A Wikipedia For Manuscript Summaries

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Launching officially next week, MiniManuscript is applying the Wikipedia model to manuscript summaries. Members can post, read and discuss condensed versions of scientific publications, enabling (lazy!) students and the wider academic community to “examine a large amount of literature in a short space of time”. The idea may sound kind of obvious, post-Jimmy Wales, but the site is already gaining plaudits, including winning the Shell Livewire Grand Ideas Award in August, along with a UCL Bright Ideas Award, which brought with it a small amount of funding in the form of a convertible loan.

Naturally, its founders are both students, who came up with the idea of creating a site to pool resources after realising that, just between the two of them, there was already a lot of duplication in their workflow. Jake Fairnie is a Cognitive Neuroscience PhD student at UCL, and Anna Remington completed her PhD in Developmental Science in 2009 at UCL and is now a Junior Research Fellow in Autism and Related Disorders at the University of Oxford. They realised that they were often reading the same publications, and began maintaining a shared document online to record quick summaries of articles they’d read, and the idea of MiniManuscript was conceived.

Along with being an online database of user-generated manuscript summaries, the site provides discussion threads and any related multimedia content — e.g. podcasts and videos — for each manuscript summary.

Revenue-wise, MiniManuscript is free to use, though should it reach scale, I’m told that advertising is one possibility. Another option is to charge for Premium Account subscriptions, targeted at users who would rather not see advertising and who require more storage space to save favourite summaries. Finally, there’s also the potential for University sponsorship.

“We’re halfway between a social and a commercial enterprise (“not just profit”) so philanthropic investment may be our way forward”, say the site’s founders.