In conversation with Abhishek Goel, CEO Cactus Communications
We started offering translation and editing services to help such researchers overcome the language barrier and meet their publishing goals.
1. What is Cactus Communications?
Cactus Communications is a technology company accelerating scientific advancement. We started out as a language editing company dedicated to helping researchers get published. Since English is the global language of science communication, non-native English-speaking researchers aiming to get published often feel disadvantaged. We started offering translation and editing services to help such researchers overcome the language barrier and meet their publishing goals.
Over the last 18 years, we have evolved into a company that caters to the needs of all major stakeholders in the research landscape—individual researchers; pharma, biotech, and medical device companies; universities and labs; publishers and academic societies; and funders. We specialize in author services, research impact acceleration, medical communication support, and technology products for business solutions. We aim to make science accessible to a widespread audience and create new opportunities in academic publishing.
Today we have offices in major cities such as Princeton, London, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Aarhus, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. We have a global workforce of over 2,000 freelance experts, over 1000 full-time employees, and customers from over 190 countries.
2. How did this idea come about?
It all started during a trip to Japan where I met a researcher and he sought my help in editing his paper. This is when I realised the struggle Asian researchers face in getting published in scientific, technical, and medical journals. After returning to Mumbai, I co-founded Cactus Communications with my brother Anurag Goel to help researchers bridge that gap.
3. How are you helping the scientist community?
We essentially help scientists take their research from the lab to the target audience. Scientists need to publish their findings so that others can discover the work they have done and build on the existing body of knowledge. When research papers get desk rejected because of language or other reasons, valuable time is lost. Using a host of services and AI tools, we ensure that the language of these papers meets publishing standards and journal instructions are followed so that the paper is not desk rejected.
Through some of our new AI-powered tools (some launched and others in beta), we want to help scientists discover relevant research so that they can stay on top of the growing volume of information, apply for funding opportunities, and find a community of other researchers to share experiences with and learn from.
Also, some scientists do not have access to training and mentoring. We plug this gap by providing online resources and mentorship curated by fellow researchers.
Finally, we help scientists gain better reach and visibility after their papers are published. We do this by creating bite-sized content from the research, which helps it reach a larger pool of stakeholders.
4. Where/ how do you see CACTUS fitting into the ecosystem?
Like I mentioned earlier, we work with all stakeholders in science communication. We provide editorial, publication, and outreach support to researchers and life science organizations; build tools and platforms to help publishers and academic societies publish research faster; and support universities and funders in communicating research to other stakeholders. We also provide platforms where like-minded researchers and stakeholders can come together to discuss and solve problems. We also incubate early stage start-ups that share our mission to solve global problems with science and technology solutions.
5. Tell us about your recent projects/ ventures.
Earlier this year, we acquired UNSILO, a Denmark-based AI company that specializes in text analytics, linguistics, and data science. We have been developing AI-based solutions to aid researchers at every stage of the publishing cycle. With researchers having less time on their hands, we want to create solutions that will expedite or automate certain tasks. To start with, we have built the world’s largest AI-powered, expert-curated platform on COVID-19 research to help researchers discover trending concepts in the latest published papers.
6. CACTUS is fairly known for its culture. Please elaborate what it means
The culture we have built at CACTUS is based on trust. We believe that everyone comes from a place of good intent. We have a multicultural and global workforce, so we have learnt to embrace diversity and communicate actively. Our employees are encouraged to talk openly about their ideas, give opinions, and provide feedback to anyone who is a part of CACTUS, regardless of designation, experience, or seniority. Our policies have helped us create a safe place for women, who form a majority of our in-house workforce (about 54%). In 2019, we were recognized as the Best Organization for Women Empowerment/Women Talent Development at the Women Empowerment Summit and GIWL Awards and we were among the Top 10 Safe Places to Work in a pan-India survey.
7. Looking to the next five years, what are your biggest goals?
We want to be known as an organization that has helped increase the speed and impact of research publishing and dissemination. We are working on various technology products and platforms, as mentioned previously. We want to make information accessible to various stakeholders (policymakers, funders, government, healthcare professionals, caregivers, patients, and the industry) in ways that they best comprehend and thus create a positive impact on society. We also want to build CACTUS into a model organization for the kind of conscious lives that every employee leads, and continue to be a great place to work.
8. Being a company that enables researchers, what is the company doing in the current Covid scenario?
Our COVID-19 research platform uses a concept-based discovery model that allows researchers to easily find research that would otherwise remain hidden. It highlights the most relevant work in a certain research area, even in the absence of the searched keyword in the paper. We are confident that it will help researchers at various stages of their research cycle discover relevant content.
We started offering pro bono editing, translation, artwork formatting, and research promotion services to COVID-19 researchers. Since February this year, we have enabled the speedy dissemination of COVID-19 research by editing and translating over 1000 papers (equivalent to over USD 300,000) on the global pandemic at no charge to researchers. Among these papers, almost 50% was research on vaccines and drugs. We have designed other solutions to support researchers at every step of their publication journey. R Pubsure helps researchers quickly check the submission-readiness of their manuscripts before they send it to journals. At a time when researchers are racing to find a vaccine and prevent similar outbreaks, R Pubsure saves researchers the time they would have spent on language and technical corrections. Also, with many labs closed, researchers have fewer opportunities to communicate with their mentors and senior researchers. This is where R Upskill comes in. It offers a repository of courses and support that helps researchers become better equipped to conduct their research.
9. How is it really helping the scientists to reach a solution?
Our solutions are taking care of tasks that eat into a lot of the researcher’s time—editing, formatting, finding the right journal, and looking for funding. By freeing up this time, we are giving researchers more time to do actual research and find solutions to some of the most pressing problems the world is facing right now. Further, by aiding quicker publishing and better literature search, we are allowing for the latest knowledge to be available to more people.
10. Have you seen any impact on business because of Covid-19?
Our business model has withstood the impact of the pandemic. We have a globally distributed workforce and freelancers who are able to work from anywhere. Also, over the last few years, we have invested in building an infrastructure that allows seamless coordination across locations. This involves cloud servers, project management tools, and communication platforms like Slack, Atlassian, SAP, and MS Teams. These systems allowed over 1000 full-time employees in 11 locations around the world to transition to work-from-home smoothly. I’m happy to say that the move did not impact our operational capacity in any way and we were able to provide continued support to our customers.
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