Sofia 3 : five million experts at your fingertips – interview with the wizard behind this prodigy

Presans is proud to announce the new version of Sofia (presans.com/x-search), the search engine and management tool for international experts.

Sofia 3 is both more accurate and more relevant:

  • Comprehensive coverage of global expertise, over 5 million experts identified, as well as their relationships.
  • Search scientific and academic experts as well as startups.
  • Innovative search features. Because searching for an expert isn’t the same as searching for a web page, the new version of Sofia allows to search by similarity, working relationships, communities of interest, etc.

Fabien Coulon took the time to discuss this important milestone with us.

fabien coulon - presansCan you tell us about yourself?

Fabien: After my Computer Science PhD, I worked at startup called Linterweb on a search engine. This drew the interest of Albert Meige, and that’s basically how I got hired at Presans to work on Sofia. I haven’t looked back since.

Sofia 3 integrates new features. What can you tell us about that?

The strategy behind Sofia has always been to maximize our coverage and the number of sources used to collect data. As a consequence, we have learned how to deal with a lot of unstructured data. This means we are able to consolidate the data by identifying similar entities. We are able to measure similarity and conclude if two entities are identical or not. This also means that the relevance of our data increases in a nonlinear way.

Sofia is able to determine expert co-occurrences, typically in the case of the co-authors of a scientific paper or patent. This proximity measure between experts adds a lot of information by providing access to graphs of expert communities.

Concerning startups: for over a year we’ve been increasing Sofia’s ability to integrate multiple sources of information on startups.

The new search features have to do with the ability to search by groups of experts, and even to identify experts who are connectors between otherwise separate expert communities.

Who are the users of Sofia?

Mainly Presans Fellows (but also a few partners… ask us!) when they on the prowl for experts. We have statistics that give us the proportion of experts who were found through Sofia and who respond to a Presans Call for Expertise by submitting a proposal. This proportion has been increasing on a regular basis, from 35% in 2013, to 80% in 2016.

Who are your heroes?

I’m not sure I’m a very hero-centered person.

I admire Mario Draghi’s realistic pessimism regarding economic growth.

I also greatly enjoy the immersive experience of watching movies. More so than reading books. The heroes of Into the Wild and of Fight Club give us vicarious access to radical dreams of freedom.

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