The VIVO software and ontology were initially developed and used at Cornell University and are now adopted by several research institutions and cross-institutional research discovery projects (see VIVOweb, VIVO Search). There are around 50 installations of VIVO in the United States and 25 in the rest of the world.

VIVO is one of the best known and most adopted open source semantic web application in the category of "Research Networking Tools and Research Profiling Systems".

When installed and populated with researcher interests, activities, and accomplishments, it enables the discovery of research and scholarship across disciplines at that institution and beyond. VIVO supports browsing and a search function which returns faceted results for rapid retrieval of desired information. Content in any local VIVO installation may be maintained manually, brought into VIVO in automated ways from local systems of record, such as HR, experts database, grants, research activity databases, or from database providers such as publication aggregators and funding agencies.