Three centuries ago, the mathematicians Newton and Leibniz are said to have conceived of and worked on the mathematical concept of calculus independently of each other, with no knowledge of how each was not the only one. When they published their results in the scientific publications of their time, a bitter feud erupted over who was to receive credit for the invention. This might be the most enduring story of how scientists can end up working alone on identical projects just because there was no way to find out about concurrent research on their subject, sometimes in the same University even.

When scientists working on similar subjects happen to run into each other they usually consider themselves uncommonly lucky to have found partners and collaborators in their venture. The scientific community though is giving up on hopelessly waiting on serendipity, and is trying to make luck happen for it; the conception that will help them do this is a new Facebook-like service called Vivoweb; and it is supposed to bring scientists together to help them discover one another and collaborate in a more reliable fashion than traditionally has been known.

The Vivo project originated at University of Florida six years ago at Cornell’s Mann library. In the beginning Vivo was a network of scientists at Cornell University alone; over time though, Vivo has expanded across several universities, indexing scientists, projects and collaborations all over to help the scientists across the country find one another through a Facebook-like interface. As more and more American universities and institutions have come to accept the standard set by Vivo, the network has begun spreading outside of the country too. Universities in Australia and China, indeed in disciplines outside of the medical profession too are beginning to explore networking with Vivo. Conservative people have always complained about the pointlessness of social networking; happily, news of this kind is certain to gladden the heart of many a censorious fogey.