Brevy: Summarizing the World’s Research
By Brandi Scardilli
Brevy (brevy.org), a new “wiki for summaries of academic research” that is currently in beta, lets anyone create or view these summaries for free. It aims to make research outputs easier to understand and to help researchers decide what content is most relevant to their needs. “You can use it to keep track of research you come across in your studies, curate download links to papers, discuss the work on its talk page, and view suggestions of related material,” its website states. The summaries will go beyond simple abstracts for academic papers by allowing for clear, concise language to describe their content as well as the ability to add critiques and opinions.
Josh King, Brevy’s founder, envisions usage by all types of researchers from a variety of disciplines. For example, he says teachers could use it to show their young students what real-world research looks like, and higher-education students could use it as an introduction to the knowledge required of them in their coursework. Business or political leaders could stay informed about the issues their constituencies face. Science writers and journalists could find works of significance and interest. “The general populace itself can have considerably more access to how we know what we do, which could hopefully demystify a number of perplexing or controversial topics,” says King.
“Brevy is very much the result of both the hope and frustration that can be found in the state of science and research today,” he continues. “On one hand, the amount of published work has skyrocketed over the last few decades, theoretically amounting to hundreds of thousands of new discoveries all the time being made available to humanity. It’s hard not to see a bright future here! But on the other hand, so much of this work is hidden behind exorbitant paywalls or is written in language that only a narrow subset of a narrow subset of academics can understand. The likelihood then is that … the overwhelming bulk of what’s out there isn’t really accessible in a significant way to the world.” He notes that even academics with the ability to digest all of this content don’t necessarily have the time. “I think the intuitive solution then becomes—make it more readable, make it simpler, and make it more open. Brevy is our attempt at making that happen.”
The Brevy team is currently working on building up the site’s pool of summaries. Once Brevy has enough of them to present a viable proof of concept, says King, he’ll start to reach out to academics, “enticing them to add summaries through the public accessibility and outreach opportunity it provides.” Additionally, he plans to “seek out university graduate student interest more vigorously as it’s likely that user base could benefit considerably from our platform.” Anyone interested in creating a summary should visit Brevy’s website to find out more.