Authorea & Sumit Proposal


  • Knowledge transfer is one of the key aspects of understanding the world, as we pass on learnings from one generation to the other.
  • International development is one of the critical sectors that needs major improvement in the way that we create, share, and apply knowledge.
  • This is because international development, encapsulates our efforts to improve the basic living conditions and opportunities of marginalized and underserved people around the world.

SDSN Background

Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2012, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. We aim to accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated approaches to the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world. The SDSN works closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.

The organization and governance of the SDSN aims to enable a large number of leaders from all regions and a diverse set of backgrounds to participate in the running of the network while at the same time ensuring effective structures for decision making and accountability. The SDSN Leadership Council acts as the board of the SDSN. A smaller Executive Committee oversees financial, programmatic, and other operational matters. Twelve Thematic Groups involving experts from around the world lead the technical work of the SDSN. Members of the SDSN are part of the SDSN Assembly and can participate in National or Regional SDSNs. A small Academic Committee deals with issues relating to education and curriculum design. The SDSN Secretariat is hosted by Columbia University with staff in Paris, New York, and New Delhi. (

SUMIT Background

SUMIT aims to foster collaboration and bridge the knowledge divides between sustainable development actors by creating an Open Access Knowledge Management System (OpenKMS), which seamlessly integrates the four main components of the Knowledge Value Chain into an interactive and user-friendly online experience. This value chain consists of knowledge creation, curation, communication, and application. SUMIT aims to create value by leveraging emerging technologies and design methodologies to build an intelligent repository of sustainable development knowledge, enabling users to discover links between disparate fields and tailor integrated content based on their specific questions and professional goals.

Problem Statement

What if all the solutions to our problems are in pdfs that nobody reads? This is the motivating question that compelled us to seriously consider the wasted resources, duplicate efforts, and lack of collaboration across disciplines like public health, education, agriculture, and urban planning. Indeed, in a recent study the World Bank found only 13% of its reports are downloaded more than 250 times while nearly a third are never downloaded and over 87% are never cited. For an organization that dedicates a quarter of its budget on core knowledge management products, this is a dismal track record. While everyone would benefit from sharing knowledge, experiences, and lessons learned in the field, the current system for funding, designing, implementing, and evaluating programs are rigid and rely on precedent.

SUMIT's Solution

We provide an intuitive cloud-based research tool for finding and sharing credible reports, papers, datasets, and monitoring and evaluation tools. By leveraging machine learning and human centered design, SUMIT tailors content to a variety of stakeholders including academics, consultants, policy makers, international development practitioners, and students. At its core, SUMIT aggregates knowledge resources from credible sources around the web using APIs and webcrawling technology. One of the primary means of communication in the international development sector is the pdf report, which we convert to the web-native HTML5 format. This enables us to translate documents to other languages and drive our recommendation system for tailoring content to specific use cases, be it in policy-making, program implementation, or social advocacy.

Mission Statement

SUMIT aims to transform the way international development knowledge is created, accessed, shared and applied. Our mission is to enhance the research capacity of professionals and civil society actors who do important work in the global development community by making knowledge more open, accessible, and participatory.

Authorea background

Authorea is a tool for writing and managing scholarly documents. It has been referred to as a "hybrid between Google Docs and Github, for research". Authorea makes it easy to write technical documents in collaboration, allowing scholars to cite, comment, and track changes in one place. Besides being a useful collaborative editor, Authorea is really trying to reimagine the scholarly article: Authorea documents are web-native and can include data-driven, interactive graphics in addition to text and static images. This allows authors to share with the public the data and analysis associated with a plot or visualization in compelling ways.

The problem Authorea is trying to solve.

To get a paper published, authors write their manuscripts. Currently, even in large collaborations, co-authors work offline and send their versions of manuscripts back and forth via email or Dropbox. This workflow is inefficient as only one author at a time can work on the article and versions cannot be easily tracked. This inefficiency slows down writing and, in turn, the pace of scientific research and discovery. When done, authors submit the manuscript to a publisher, and it goes through a number of editorial, reviewing, and production stages. All of these steps --- writing, submitting, reviewing, editing, proofreading, publishing --- happen across multiple platforms, they are extremely slow, inefficient, and detached from one another. Authorea seamlessly connects these steps.

Authorea's solution.

Authorea brings scholarly writing to the web, making authoring of technical articles as easy as writing a blog post. Authorea is built on a robust underlying version control system (Git) allowing authors to write concurrently, locking portions of articles, tracking who is working on other portions, keeping a record of changes and undoing them at any time. Authors can also easily add citations, table, figures and mathematical notation, in addition to data-driven interactive plots (e.g., Authorea's infrastructure allows authors to directly submit papers to a journal and publishers can host their peer review and editorial processes on the same platform where the article was written, greatly shortening the number of steps needed to get a paper published.

Authorea's mission

Besides making research writing faster and more efficient, Authorea operates under a social mission: to make science more open and transparent (Open Science, Open Data). You can find more about Authorea's mission in this blog post called: Science was always meant to be open.