About a year ago Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made headlines when they announced that over time they would be donating $45 billion in Facebook stock to their new foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg initiative. The surprising aspect of the announcement was that rather than forming a non-profit entity for the donations, Zuckerberg chose instead to create an LLC. That would give more flexibility to the organization to pursue causes they think noble, but also deliver profits.
Now the initiative has completed its first acquisition, giving some clues as to the nature of the work they hope to be involved in. The acquisition was of Meta, a type of search engine for research that can help researchers more quickly locate the data and papers they need to assist in their own research. Additionally, Meta can help researchers be matched with the appropriate funding and schools to keep their curriculum up-to-date.
The explosion of information available to researchers today is both a blessing and a curse. Although today’s scientist has more potential resources than any in the past, simplifying and organizing what is available is a monumental feat.
Meta was founded in 2010 by Sam and Amy Molyneux, who had previously completed research in cancer genomics. In a statement Molyneux hinted that the intention of the transaction was to further the work of the company and allow it to solve problems a company solely devoted to profits would not be able to solve:
It is for this reason that Meta’s union with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is big news for stakeholders throughout science – from publishers to funders, and from policy-makers to industrial R&D. Meta is an intelligent system that can be brought to bear on a variety of scientific knowledge challenges. Soon we will enable developers to build on it or integrate it into third party platforms and services.Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.