Influuent – The New Central Casting for Experts and Scientists

Influuent Find Experts Reality TVInfluuent and the Golden Age of Cinema

Back in The Golden Age of cinema when Hollywood produced movies more like a factory than a studio, Central Casting was the place to go for background talent. Central Casting is still around, but in this day and age of reality TV programs and talk shows that pontificate on the latest news and trends, the media – whether TV, film, radio, or printed news – has to hire pundits with some legitimate expertise to earn viewers’ respect and interest.

Finding Experts for Radio, Television, and Film

So where do these programs find experts? It might surprise you to know that The University of Texas System (UT System) may just be the next new mother lode of authorities to fill the demand. With its newly launched Influuent™ website and search tools, UT System can find an expert for just about any topic, including science, medicine, engineering, transportation, energy, and business, to name a few. A free, easy-to-use online searchable database of researchers and resources, Influuent’s Experts Network provides a gateway to more than 15,000 UT System researchers who have written nearly 110,000 publications over the past five years.

Although Influuent is geared mainly to the research world and the commercialization of technology – i.e., industry meets the laboratory – it proves to be beneficial in other areas, as well. Casting directors, news programs, and conference directors can also tap Influuent’s free search capabilities to locate an expert interviewee, event speaker, spokesperson, or even expert witness.

What’s the Competition?

Interested to know what existing resources were available online for finding experts, I did a simple Google search and located several companies that tout their ability to do just that. I have included a few results below.

  • appears to be one of the very few online resources that specializes in connecting realty TV and talk shows, scripted television programs and films, as well as news programs and other factual-based programs, with knowledge experts across a myriad of fields. Experts pay a monthly membership fee of as much as $20 to post their personally-written bios.
  • boasts more than 100,000 experts (mostly across business and technology) in their network. Users explain their needs, and Zintro sends a list of 6-12 experts from which to choose. Users are charged a service fee for any engagement initiated through Zintro’s system.
  • describes itself as a “marketplace for experts.” Users describe their projects and what kind of researcher they are looking for, and Kolabtree provides a list of experts to bid on the project. The user pays Kolabtree who, in turn, pays the expert.
  • is the online face of Thomson Reuters Expert Witness Services. Their team selects some experts, sending their bios (sans name) to the user. There is a cost if the user hires an expert from the Thomson Reuters’ network.

Finding Experts Through Influuent

What makes Influuent stand out as a research resource is the fact that it gives users the power to search across all UT System campuses for faculty experts on any topic from architecture to zoology. More importantly, it allows them to do so for free and with full search control, something the other companies listed above do not. Additionally, a user can immediately access a full biography, photo, location, specialty, published works, and contact information of the expert, rather than waiting for a third party to supply the information.

It stands to reason – whether testifying in court, being interviewed on a TV or radio talk show, or consulting on a film – an expert adds authenticity to a claim or concept. And as more media outlets spread their net for pundits, casting directors may need to develop a larger wellspring of expert guests to feed their needs. Looks like UT System’s Influuent may just be the media’s next Central Casting.

For more information about Influuent’s launch, read the May 14, 2015 press release “UT System launches free online database to connect industry with thousands of world-class researchers.”

Cutting-Edge Influuent Tools and Website Launch Today

Influuent find experts ut system

Influuent™ Launches Today

May 14, 1998 may mark the airing of the last episode of Seinfeld on NBC, but May 14, 2015 denotes the first official day that Influuent, UT System’s cutting-edge web portal, goes live on the Internet. The Influuent website launched this morning after Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor of the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) at UT System, presented the finished product to the UT System Board of Regents’ (BoR) during their meeting today in Austin, Texas.

Initial feedback and reactions from the Board include Chairman Paul Foster, “I think it’s fabulous,” with Regent Wallace Hall, Jr. agreeing, “This [Influuent] is a very exciting tool you have been developing.”

Influuent is UT System’s free, online searchable database that allows the private sector, academic researchers, and government agencies to find thousands of renowned researchers, experts, and facilities across the Systems’ campuses and health institutions – in one spot, quickly and efficiently.

Available Tools

UT System has the distinction of being the first major university system in the nation to launch such a database. In addition to hosting two very powerful tools – Find Experts and Find Funding – the Influuent website also provides valuable resources for intellectual property and technology transactions, research centers and institutes, clinical trials by institution, faculty awards, and more.

Influuent’s Find Experts tool serves as a gateway to more than 15,000 UT System researchers, involved in such areas as science, medicine, engineering, energy, transportation, and business, to name a few. Searching by keyword, concept, last name, or published abstract, a user can access not only a faculty researcher, but his/her entire research team, including partners, facilities and equipment, as well as other faculty in the same academic department.

Who Should Use the Influuent Website?

Influuent find experts ut system

View video – Influuent: An Introduction

Faculty can use the tools to find funding opportunities and research partners and to build their research networks. Scientists can find colleagues with similar
interests or find experts in areas that can help them take their work to the next level. The developer of a new life-saving vaccine can find an engineer who has invented a delivery device that can be used in difficult conditions. He/she can then find an expert in African languages and culture who can help the project team come up with a plan to deliver the vaccine at the local level effectively. Additionally, the media can search for an expert to talk knowledgeably about a topic, and content/event managers can find speakers for conferences or trade publications.

Once an expert is identified, users can contact him/her directly through the Influuent website by filling out one short form to contact all the selected experts. These potential partnerships can boost the state’s economy, as well as make Texas more business-friendly, and foster cross-institution collaborations among UT researchers from different campuses and institutions.

Influuent’s Find Funding tool is available to the UT institution network. The tool helps users find the right funding opportunities, discover new sources of funding, analyze the funding environment, identify collaborators working in areas of similar interest, and receive targeted notification of opportunities.

Additionally, a user can retrieve research papers and articles produced in more than 110,000 publications. Influuent’s search tool scans and analyzes every publication in Scopus, which is considered the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed research literature.

Influuent find experts ut systemHow Influuent Got Its Start

Because of its expertise in data management, the Office of Strategic Initiatives has led the Influuent project, but it has done so in partnership with the UT System offices of Health Affairs, Academic Affairs, and of Technology Commercialization. The idea for Influuent was hatched back in 2014 when Stephanie Huie and Patti Hurn, vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, asked the UT BoR to support the creation of a tool and website that supports the UT System Innovation Framework 2014 initiative. The BoR granted $5.54 million over three years to support the project.

For more information, visit the Influuent website, as well as its Twitter feed @Influuent and LinkedIn site.

Husker Nancy Nilson Joins OSI As Senior Administrative Associate

Nancy Nilson

New Hire UT System Nancy NilsonNancy Nilson, a Nebraska Native, is a newcomer to the Office of Strategic Initiatives at The University of Texas System. As OSI’s Senior Administrative Associate, Nancy will support Vice Chancellor Stephanie Huie, as well as OSI staff. She holds a BS in Science in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska (Lincoln).

No stranger to higher education, Nancy recently served as business services administrative assistant for the vice president at the Round Rock campus of Texas State University. Prior to that, Nancy was the exhibits manager for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (TAHPERD).

Nancy began her career as a special projects coordinator for the Department of Solar Energy at her alma mater. Additionally, she has worked in direct mail marketing and computer software consulting – in the U.S. and internationally.

Married, with a teenage daughter, Nancy enjoys travel, crafts (beadwork, tatting, and sewing), and attending Austin festivals and sports events.



Get a Sneak Preview of Influuent at SXSW Interactive

SXSW Influuent UT System Future Finders

UT System Is Exhibiting at South by Southwest® Interactive

So, you don’t have a South by Southwest Interactive wristband, but you really want to attend a SXSW event that showcases health, medical technology, innovation, research collaborations, entrepreneurship, and business. No prob. We have the perfect SXSW Interactive venue for you – The University of Texas System Future Finders – coming your way on Saturday, March 14.

This is only the second year UT System has been a part of the SXSW Interactive Festival, an Austin-based über event considered to be “an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity.” This year’s Future Finders sessions I and II promise to engage, educate, and entertain even the savviest Interactive fan. The event will offer presentations, panels, and exhibitors, allowing attendees to preview tomorrow’s technology today.

SXSW Interactive Influuent UT System

Click on icon to register

This is the first year that UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) will be exhibiting at SXSW. OSI will present a sneak preview and demonstration of its UT System-wide research experts data warehouse – Influuent™ – to SXSW attendees and invited guests. Influuent is a free, online interactive search tool that allows users to discover experts from all UT institutions in any area of expertise or focus. Whatever the interest may be, UT has an expert – whether it is medicine and healthcare; law; transportation; communication; oil and gas; energy; engineering; or business and finance.

Influuent will feature all UT System researchers on the site, allowing viewers to:

  • Discover experts in all topics and review their publication history
  • Search more than 15,000 faculty research profiles from across UT System institutions
  • Explore interactive maps of research collaboration networks
  • Explore potential funding opportunities
  • Find forms, policies, and additional information on whom to contact and how to move forward

Presently, anyone can search the individual Experts sites at all UT System health institutions. However, in May, OSI will release a system-wide website and tool that will allow interested parties to search across all websites from a single place. The SXSW Future Finders event offers attendees the chance to preview and use Influuent before its official launch.

Though OSI is leading the Influuent project because of its expertise in data management, it is in partnership with the UT System offices of Health Affairs, Academic Affairs, and of Technology Commercialization. The idea for Influuent was hatched back in 2014 when Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for OSI, and Patti Hurn, vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, asked the UT System Board of Regents (BoR) to support the creation of a tool and website that supports the UT System Innovation Framework 2014 initiative. The (BoR) granted $5.54 million over three years to support the project. For more information, please see my blog UT System Experts Fosters Strategic Public-Private Research Partnerships.

This year, in addition to thought-provoking exhibitions and demonstrations, the Future Finders event will include two separate panel discussions covering health, education, collaboration, and interactive technologies. Panel members include renowned professors and scientists. Cecilia Conrad, Ph.D. – vice president of the MacArthur Fellows program – will act as moderator.

Part I – (3:30 – 4:30 p.m.)

  • Laurence James Neil Cooper, M.D., Ph.D. – Section Chief of Pediatric Cell Therapy, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Providing new hope against aggressive childhood cancers by developing and manufacturing targeted therapies.
  • Thomas Geisbert, Ph.D. – Professor of microbiology and immunology at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is currently testing potential Ebola vaccines and treatments. He was named one of Time magazine’s Persons of the Year for 2014 for his research on fighting the Ebola virus.

Part II – (5:00 – 6:00 p.m.)

  • Maninder (Mini) K. Kahlon, Ph.D. – Vice Dean for Partnerships & Strategy, University of Texas Dell Medical School.
  • Robert Metcalfe, Ph.D. – Professor of Innovation and Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise in The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering.

Discover Influuent at Future Finders at SXSW Interactive on March 14. Let UT System help you find answers to future questions.

@UTFactsOnline, #FuturFindr, @Influuent

Hey Hey My My – Graphic Design Will Never Die

February 4, 2015 Leave a comment

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye
Hey hey, my my

Neil Young’s belief in the longevity of Rock and Roll is immortalized in his lyrics. But whether Young was referring to graphic design when he wrote “There’s more to the picture than meets the eye,” is anyone’s guess. Except maybe American graphic designer David Carson, who once said, “Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does.”

UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) agrees with both artists, hoping that the two passions of music and design will continue to run simultaneously – even at times symbiotically. That’s one of the reasons why OSI Communications expanded its team with two new graphic designers: Lauren Santorio and Andrea Eaves.

Lauren Santorio

Lauren Santorio

Lauren Santorio

With a BA in Fine Arts from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, as well as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Lauren Santorio has plied her talents in graphic design, art direction, fashion product styling, and visual projection throughout New York, New Jersey, Texas, Michigan, and even Mexico. Lauren, who is from upstate New York, has worked with the Ann Arbor Film Festival; the International Animation Festival in Querétaro, Mexico; the Together Festival in Boston; and SXSW Music Festival in Austin, where she was the visual projection artist for the musical duo Sonnymoon.

At OSI, Lauren will be producing brochures, advertisements, and logos, among other complex materials. She will also assist in the generation of content and provide related services for events, photography, web design, and more. With the expansion of OSI’s online website and earnings and debt tool – seekUT – Lauren will be advancing the brand to a national audience through upcoming advertisements in U.S. News & World Report editions of “Best Grad Schools” and “Best Colleges,” as well as online with the Texas Tribune.

[Photo credit: Shay Spaniola / Photo styling: Nancy Daniels]


Andrea Eaves

Andrea Eaves

Native Texan Andrea Eaves joins OSI as a Student Graphic Design Associate. She is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying advertising, with a focus on art direction, at the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations within the Moody College of Communication. She is also completing the McCombs Global Business Foundations Certificate.

A design and Alfredo pizza enthusiast, Andrea loves to travel, having studied the Spanish language and literature at the University of Granada in Spain. Back in the States, Andrea is a member of the Texas Advertising Group, as well as Phi Beta Chi – a professional woman’s organization. At OSI, Andrea will be working closely with Lauren Santorio to unify UT System’s health and education institutions by designing logos and webpages, and editing layout designs and color schemes for a number of UT initiatives.

[Photo styling: Nancy Daniels]

Shedd Sheds Light on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Institutional Research

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

UT System NEAIR Conference 2014 Higher Education

The North East Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR) chose an appropriate motto for its 41st Annual Conference in Philadelphia – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of IR. Hearkening the Locke and Jefferson origins of the phrase, NEAIR dedicates itself to fostering informed judgments on policy decisions that affect our personal and collective liberties.

Seizing the opportunity to reach out to the IR community in the northeast, UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives sent Assistant Director Jessica Shedd to the City of Brotherly Love last week to give her presentations on “Faculty Retention and Departure at the University of Texas System” and “Wage Data: Post-Graduate Outcomes and More.” Shedd, whose presentations drew standing-room-only audiences, also hosted a Newcomers Workshop with Terra Schehr of Loyola University Maryland.

Faculty Retention and Departure at UT System

Shedd’s message in her Faculty Retention and Departure presentation emphasizes that extreme faculty turnover is problematic for an institution, as faculty departure is associated with costs related to hiring, short-term replacement costs, and disruptions of course offerings and mentoring students, etc. Her study tracks cohorts of newly hired and newly tenured faculty for five years, examining their retention rates at UT System between Fall 2007 and 2012.

Wage Data: Post-Graduate Outcomes and More

In her wage data presentation, Shedd talks about OSI’s partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission, which provides UT System with Texas Unemployment Insurance (UI) data, explaining how important record level data is for understanding post-graduation outcomes. She also adds that even though Texas UI wage data is powerful, it is somewhat limited since it is for Texas only; does not include self-employed individuals; provides no data on an employee’s occupation/job; and shows no indicator if employment was full- or part-time.

UI wage data is not just used for post-graduate outcome research, however. Shedd delves into the subject of employment and student success, examining the relationship between student employment and retention using UI wage information. The study is aimed at student employment earnings and if they have a negative impact on first-year student success.

seekUT and seekUT+grad

Also in her wage data presentation, Shedd talks about seekUT and seekUT+grad, OSI’s wunderdata interactive wage tools that provide median earnings of alumni for 10 years after graduation; monthly earnings vs. estimated student loan payment; as well as debt-to-income ratio compared to affordability guidelines, to name a few.

More About NEAIR

The NEAIR is the northeast regional arm of the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), which is the world’s largest professional association for institutional researchers. With more than 4,000 members, the AIR’s primary purpose is to “support members in the process of collecting, analyzing, and converting data into information that supports decision-making in higher education.”

Article & photo styling: Nancy Daniels

OSI Expands Its Department with Four New Hires

November 6, 2014 Leave a comment

November ushers in four new staffers to the Office of Strategic Initiatives


UT System OSI new hire

Data Warehouse Developer

New hire John Benner joins OSI as a Data Warehouse Developer. For more than 10 years, John has served UT institutions as a developer and analyst, working previously for UT System as a systems analyst in the Office of Risk Management. Prior to joining OSI, John was a senior software developer/analyst at the Office of Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems at UT Austin. He has also worked as a chemist, a science textbook editor, and a freelance writer.

John is a native of Indiana, where, as a proud member of the Richmond Red Devil Marching Band, he had the privilege of traveling to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. One week after graduation, he packed up his heavily used Pontiac Grand Prix and headed to Texas, where he earned a Master’s degree in Chemistry at UT Austin.

With his wife and two sons, John has hiked to the summit of one of the “fourteeners” in the state of Colorado (only 52 more to go!). He enjoys cooking, camping, listening to shortwave radio, learning soccer from his boys, walking with his dog, Buckeye, and having his head shaved annually to raise funds for children’s cancer research. He looks forward to finding time to brush up on speaking French and on playing the trombone.

UT System OSI new hire Senior Research & Policy Analyst

Marlena Creusere, Ph.D., steps into the position of Senior Research & Policy Analyst at OSI. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Marlena earned a B.A. in Linguistics, as well as a Ph.D. in Psychology. While in school, her research focused on language acquisition and cognitive development in children. Her primary areas of investigation centered on nonliteral language and nonverbal communication. Prior to her employment with OSI, Marlena worked as a research analyst with TG (formerly known as Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation) and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services’ Early Childhood Intervention Services, and as a disability adjudicator for the Social Security Administration.

Marlena is a volunteer for Austin Boxer Rescue and has fostered a rotating horde of boxers over the years. Her hobbies include renovating her house and garden, reading history books, traveling the U.S. and abroad, and observing communicative interactions between individuals.

UT System OSI new hire

Administrative Associate

Claudia Gerardo creates a new position in OSI as Administrative Associate, handling travel, purchasing, contracts, sole-source justifications, etc. Before coming to OSI, Claudia spent more than 10 years as a departmental buyer at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit for UT Austin. Armed with two degrees in Foods & Nutrition from Central Michigan University, she managed a food science lab in human ecology.

Claudia enjoys sewing and cooking, especially creating and improving new recipes – much to the delight of her neighbors and co-workers. Claudia serves on several community boards and is the proud human of her rescued canine buddy Barclay, a King Charles Cavalier.

UT System OSI New Hire Supervisor of Information Systems

Lei Wang is OSI’s new Supervisor of Information Systems. Lei received a Master of Education in Instructional Technology from the College of Education. She has been with UT System, as well as UT Austin for more than 13 years. Before coming aboard OSI, Lei was the senior information specialist for UT System Administration (OTIS), where she spent two years serving general IT needs for all departments. Prior to that, she garnered six years of experience as a system administrator at ITS (UT Austin), managing a variety of server needs for various entities on a contract basis.

Lei quips, “When I’m not exposing myself to computer radiation, I like to take to the great outdoors. You can find me hiking the trails or running near Town Lake during lunch hour.”



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