Dec 10, 2014

Changing face of research with Peter Vanderheyden & Cheryl Milone - Article One Partners - thinkPat Interview

With articleone reaching the $6M mark (paid in researcher rewards) recently, we are experiencing a shift in the way research is conducted.

Of course, crowdsourced research has been around for quite a while, this milestone reached by articleone, one of the spearheading crowdsourcing research firms, clearly shows us that crowdsourcing is being preferred for research, and many researchers are considering this as an income source.
The biggest pro of platforms like article one, according to me, is the flexibility it gives to researchers - Anyone with an understanding of the subject matter, of any age group, with any qualification, having an access to the internet can take up a study and try their hand, and stand a chance of winning the associated reward.

That being said, crowdsourcing comes with a big con for researchers as well - the competition.

This is good for the clients for whom the research is conducted, what this means is an uncertainty of income. Unless you give quality references, and unless you are quick, you may only look at the reward figure.

However, an opportunity such as this, especially for researchers based in underdeveloped and developing countries is more than welcome.

While we may believe non-crowdsourcing research firms may provide an additional confidentiality, article one has tackled this issue as well. With all the parameters we may believe that crowdsourcing may take over the entire research spectrum; however, the only problem would then be the uncertainty of minimum pay for researchers. But then, if all companies seeking research shift to crowdsourcing, maybe this takeover would be inevitable. This may even make the conventional research firms to shift to crowdsourcing in whatever extent they can, to survive.

I am a proud part of the article one community, and when I had just started as a new researcher I always tried my hand at new studies. It was a proud moment for me to put across my questions to Peter Vanderheyden, President of Article One Partners and Cheryl Milone, Founder & Chairman of Article One Partners on their views on crowdsourcing and the future of technology & patent research.

Q&A with Cheryl Milone & Peter Vanderheyden - ArticleOne Partners

PV: Peter Vanderheyden, President of Article One Partners
CM: Cheryl Milone, Founder & Chairman
MT: Mikaela Tierney, Marketing & Community Manager

Nilesh - Although this may be difficult, do you have a statistical analysis of the origin of researchers, especially the winners and the runner-ups? It would be interesting to see which fields, countries, backgrounds most of them belong to.

MT- With over 30,000 Researchers on the AOP platform, our Community is extremely diverse in terms of Researcher backgrounds. We have AOP Researchers from 170 different countries with experience in a vast array of technology areas. There are over 950 different Study Winners from over 35 countries, including Armenia, Colombia, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and much more. Some of our Researchers and their personal storiesare featured in our “Featured Researcher” blog post series, which can be seen here.

Nilesh - What do you see as some of the pros and cons, from client's perspective, of taking the crowdsourcing route?

PV- With our full product line there are really no "con's" so to speak. With "only" CrowdSearch we would end up with a price point out of line with some use cases, such as patentability or novelty searching. Our product line now addresses these various use cases. Having said that, we have a number of products that leverage the crowd and are clearly meeting the needs of our client base.

Nilesh - Is confidentiality an issue?

MT: Marshall Phelps and Cheryl Milone have shared their insights on the perceived risk of discovery and importance of confidentiality in previous AOP Blog posts, which may be interesting to read. The topic of discovery (and AOP’s best practices) was also discussed in Cheryl’s latest article published in The Federal Lawyer’s December issue, available to read here. We also recently released an “AOP Snapshot” video on the topic of Discovery art Article One, which may be helpful in answering questions and quelling the perceived risk – this was narrated by Cheryl Milone.
Nilesh - This Thanksgiving, I am sure you would have received many thanks from researchers you have rewarded over the years. How does it feel to have been the changing body for so many lives?

CM - The AOP community is the most gratifying area of the company for me. When I thought about my Thanksgiving blessings, I counted the community high on my personal list. It is a leap of faith to work on a platform like ours, relying on a review process outside of your control. We are so very honoured that the researchers have taken this leap of faith with us and we hope to continue to be worthy of their trust and valuable time.This experience marks the best of what I could have chosen to do in my work life, creating work for others and measuring success purely on a merit basis. I think people who are drawn to this type of work think similarly, we enjoy substantive thinking reflection and productivity; that focus on an economic level and job creation level is what makes our economy grow. Thanks so very much to you and the whole AOP researcher community - it is just an honour to work with you.

Nilesh - I have seen Article One grow, and I am proud of being a part of the community. What was the feeling when you reached the 6M mark?

CM - As we are about 6 years old, we continue the tradition of distributing about $1 million annually in Rewards to our community. While I know that number will grow, I think we have proven our model in this period with compensation on the level of worldwide brands who also do other types of crowdsourcing contests. When I think of high-level statistics, I quickly return to what it means on an individual basis - the fact that multiple researchers use the same phrase when speaking about AOP: "This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me."

It is such an amazing feeling to know that, as a company with such a strong community, we are supporting to, college educations, and life-changing incomes in developing countries. I spoke at the USPTO Roundtable on Crowdsourcing last week, and I focused on what high-level statistics mean for the individual and how we must, at all levels, honour substance and value created by each contributor in order to truly make changes. Changes may come more slowly on that basis, but the foundation of our objective is to improve patent quality; by taking this approach, the result will be deeper and richer and, in the long term, more successful.

Nilesh - What is the next aim? Do you have internal milestones defined?

PV - Our goal is to expand our value proposition to our clients by providing more earnings opportunities related to the skills of our research community. One helps drive the other in a very synergistic way.

This has led the expansion of our product line from just CrowdSearch Studies to now include ExpertSearch, FlashSearch, AlphaSearch, Mapping Studies and Surveys. As you might expect, there are other products on the drawing board and, like all businesses, we have ever increasing financial and business objectives to guide us.

Nilesh - I have seen Article One grow with changes - changes in rules, rewards, etc. There is a need to keep researchers motivated. How do you do it?

PV - Great question. Managing a community takes diligent effort and observation as well as communication with the members of the community. Our policies and changes have always been focused on helping the community focus their time in productive and meaningful ways as we increase quality.

At the same time, we're attentive to our award levels and the odds of researchers winning compensation for their efforts - too low and they won't participate, too high and we can't operate the business, so it's a balance. The other driver of our policies is a fairness doctrine. We do our best to keep a level playing field for all researchers and to provide incentives for doing good work (more submission opportunities for example) and less incentive for doing poor work or just providing what might appear to be random input (by getting fewer submission opportunities).

Nilesh - Do you believe crowdsourcing can replace and reduce the importance of standard research firms?

PV - Clearly the answer is yes. At the end of the day, clients want good research and value. If we provide that in more abundance than the alternatives then we win - if not, we lose. Our product line now gives clients the opportunity to engage us on many different levels and for many different use cases (some that compete with traditional research firms, some that don't) and the Crowd will remain as a key element to our value proposition.

Nilesh - Is this in any way seen to be preferred by clients?

PV - Again, yes. Our success in developing a blue chip client base is a testimony to the efficacy of what we do (and to the Crowd in particular). We have a growing client list of repeat users and users who come to us as a matter of practice. Many of these clients have helped us develop the new products that continue to drive our growth.

Nilesh - Patent searching skills required for validity and prior art searches are slowly going to decrease in the future. This is because of the development of stronger algorithms, increased computing power, and high availability of information. What are your thoughts?

PV - I think not. I've been in the patent information business since the late 1990's and have seen enormous change and development in patent data and prior art research. While all of these tools can help the process (and do), it will remain a largely human activity for the foreseeable future. The breadth of what is considered "prior art" is daunting and one can never be 100% comprehensive in their searching (unless they found the silver bullet). One might even argue that as access to prior art increases the job becomes even more daunting.

Further, it's the interpretation of the art that matters when it comes to patents and litigation. Without the tools, content and access we see today the job might be all but impossible, so the presence of these things helps make it more manageable but it is still an enormous challenge to applicants and patent offices globally and is showing no signs of abating soon.
We love you article one and you rock!