Taralyn Tan Ph.D. Curriculum Fellow Harvard Medical
Check out these websites from GEN’s Best of the Web.
The Internet is a big place; when you're looking for biotech-related websites, where should you start? At GEN's Best of the Web, of course! Every other issue, we bring you a list of biotech- and biopharma-related websites we think you, GEN reader, would find useful and/or interesting. Here is our most recent list of the Best of the Web. Enjoy!
Four stars: Excellent
Three stars: Very Good
Two stars: Good
+ Strong points
– Weak points
Protocol Online ★★★
+ Research protocols from diverse fields, active online forum
– Random collection of protocols, not a comprehensive resource
A grab bag of online protocol resources, Protocol Online is a good place to start if you find yourself ready to try a new technique, but lacking a protocol to do so. The website has incredible range, providing protocols that are organized into 19 diverse categories such as biochemistry, histology, microbiology, plant biology, and research tools. However, potential site visitors should be aware that each category itself is largely incomplete—that is, this website might be best described as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” That said, given the easy “search” feature, it is worth a few seconds of one’s time to see if the desired protocol (or at least a good starting point) can be found within the website’s pages. In addition to the protocol listings, there is also an online forum that may be useful for researchers with specific questions or troubleshooting concerns. The forum is quite active, and old threads are archived and indexed by discipline for easy reference.
World Science U ★★★
+ Nicely designed site, good course materials
– Only two courses currently offered
String theory, the Higgs particle, and special relativity…these topics are not exactly thought to be a light workload for the brain. Dr. Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, recognizes how daunting these concepts are and has therefore set out to make them more accessible to university students and “lifelong learners” via the online education platform, World Science U. The content on World Science U is divided into three types: the “science unplugged” section provides short answers to a number questions related to topics in physics and mathematics, whereas the “short courses” and “university courses” sections provide free access to either 2–3 week or 8–10 week courses, respectively. Unfortunately, there are currently only two courses available (the “space, time, and Einstein” short course and the “special relativity” university course), but at least four others are listed as “in development.” Despite its limited offerings at the moment, World Science U seems to have the potential to be a great online science education resource.
+ Novel concept, great FAQs section on site, shows promise
– In its early stages, no evidence of current fundraisers
Crowdfunding is all the rage these days, assisting entrepreneurs from various walks of life to achieve their professional goals. The people behind the startup company Dodo simply ask, what about scientists? In today’s tight funding climate, can we crowdfund biotechnology research? They believe so, and they have launched dodofunding.com as the online portal to connect researchers and financial backers across the globe. Researchers are invited to submit their project ideas, along with a financial goal and a deadline to reach that goal (up to 90 days). Fundraising begins once Dodo’s scientific committee approves the project. If the target is reached before the deadline, the researcher is awarded that amount, minus a 5% fee collected by Dodo; if the goal is not reached, no money changes hands. It’s an interesting idea, and while Dodo is very much in its early stages, it’s worthwhile for scientists, academic institutions, and biotech corporations to start thinking about allowing researchers to seek alternative sources of funding such as this.
+ Text descriptions accompany images
– No citations/image sources given
It’s our largest organ, but most people don’t necessarily think about it in those terms. That’s right, I’m talking about skin. Just like any of our other organs, skin is susceptible to a number of pathologies and therefore constitutes an active area of research. Skinbase is an online database of histology images depicting skin and hair from various mutant mouse models (the mouse being the primary research model organism to study human pathologies of the skin and hair). Images on the site are indexed according to the common name of the mouse allele, such as “crinkled” or “flaky skin.” Selecting one of these alleles takes users to a page with multiple histology images from that genetic background, with a short legend accompanying each image. It is not made clear if the images come from previously published work; if so, the relevant citations are omitted. The database is somewhat small, but still likely a useful resource for researchers in the field.
The Eye Cancer Network ★★★
+ Good resources on symptoms, diagnoses, treatments
– Some pages don’t have much content
Gone are the days when medical patients and their families were at a loss for information, save the occasional visit with their physicians. One of many websites aimed at facilitating discussions between patients, their families, and physicians, the Eye Cancer Network (the website for The Eye Cancer Foundation) provides a great deal of educational information in easy-to-understand language. Much of this information can be found on the “conditions and treatment” page, where site visitors can search by keyword. Another useful page for patients and their families is the “inspiration and support” page, which contains patient testimonials and words of encouragement. Other aspects of the site—such as the “news and events” and “find a doctor” pages—are nice in concept, but are somewhat underdeveloped to be of much use at the present time.