Science Show-and-tell


Back in 2006, Moshe Pritsker thought to use video technology to capture and transmit the intricacies of life science research, facilitating both the understanding and reproduction of experiments and techniques. This idea of “letting scientists look over each other’s shoulders” led to the launch of JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which is peer reviewed and PubMed-indexed. As a scientific journal, it has an editorial board and hierarchical structure, and ensures consistent quality of its video content by maintaining a network of professional videographers spread across major science centres. Scientists from leading institutions participate by submitting video articles that visualize their experiments.

As science advances, processes and tools also become more complex. Procedures and techniques such as growing stem cells are tremendously complicated and difficult to accurately follow with just a set of written instructions, and visiting labs in person can be a very expensive alternative beyond the resources of many researchers. This challenge of poor experiment reproducibility is what JoVE tries to address, claiming that traditional written and static picture-based print journals are no longer sufficient to accurately convey the intricacies of modern research. Translating findings from the bench to clinical therapies rely on the rapid transfer of knowledge within the research community.

This month’s issue features an article by Connors et al of Massachusetts Eye & Ear and Harvard Medical School, who have developed an audio-based virtual environment simulator that uses audio cues and a video game context to build cognitive maps of three-dimensional spaces and help blind people improve their navigation skills. Other videos include a new non-invasive method being developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School for measuring brain metabolism in new-born babies, and a demonstration of how a biopolymer gel derived from polysaccharides found in brown algae can help patients with heart failure.

There are also other companies operating in the scientific video space, but what they offer is a looser user-generated environment. One of the most successful of those is SciVee, which is backed by the Public Library of Science and features videos that sit alongside traditional journal papers.

So is this the new frontier? Are we actually looking at a situation where most researchers will feel comfortable communicating with their peers using video? Has the scientific community truly given its blessing to such new approaches to science communication? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

When publishing a research paper, it's best to be sure.

Don't Keep Calm and Carry On

Image via blackbeltjones

About a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending Science Hack Day with about 150 other scientists and hackers. It was an amazingly fun event with people from all over the world coming together to build cool, quirky, and otherwise awesome things over the span of a weekend. It’s a sort of high holy day for geeks like me, so I was especially thrilled that Mendeley was able to be a sponsor this year. It was also fun spending quality time with some of the PLoS developers and collaborating on a fun hack. Here’s some of the highlights:Read More »

Watch Mendeley and PLoS on the Web! Science Hour with Leo Laporte & Dr. Kiki

Update: Archive of the show can be viewed or downloaded from here

This Thursday I’ll be joining the managing editor of PLoS ONE, Pete Binfield, live on Science Hour hosted by Leo Laporte and Dr. Kiki.

We’ll be discussing the future of academic publishing, science on the Web, or anything else that comes up.

Those in the U.S. might recognize Leo from his nationally syndicated radio show “The Tech Guy.” We will broadcast from Leo’s live studio just outside San Francisco.

Participate: OK Mendelians, now is your chance to ask all of the important questions you have been saving up. What does Victor eat for lunch? Does the Mendeley dev team room smell? What exactly does the Mendeley logo represent?

Or, you can ask a few more serious questions.

Join the chat room to ask questions or just watch what others are commenting on. The chat room can be found on the same page as the broadcast. Please join so that I don’t just get questions from my mom, who I know will be watching. Sorry, Mom.

Audio only broadcast:
Time: 3:00PM Pacific Time (11:00PM UK) on August 27, 2009

Rebroadcast: iTunes or ODTV a few days later

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Journal of FUBAR and Negative Results

Last evening I attended a panel discussion entitled, “Making the Web work for Science” hosted by Science Commons. It was held at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and moderated by Tim O’Reilly. On the panel were Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; Stephen Friend, MD, PhD President, CEO and a Co-Founder of Sage; and John Wilbanks, VP of Science at Creative Commons.

While I was hoping more would be discussed on modeling the habits of researchers with web tools, the focus on Open Science was still a good conversation. At one point, Dr. Friend mentioned the need to publish negative results. With the ability to inexpensively self-publish and distribute data on the Web, why then, aren’t we seeing more of this?

Trying to answer from my own experience as a researcher, there are at least three reasons, or rather fears:

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