The Tools of the Future

learn2By Paula Rincon

In the last Substrate post, Amanda Biederman started the conversation on the Science 2.0 movement. As technology moves ahead at a staggering speed, Science 2.0 presents boundary-breaking possibilities for research communication. History has taught us that communication revolutionized the way we see the world –think of the times when radio broadcasts and television were non-existent and news of any kind traveled slowly. Now we can take advantage of the Internet and use communication as a tool to create an inclusive scientific community where collaborative efforts become the trend instead of the deviation in a world that calls for accelerated discoveries and overall lower costs of research.

I recently stumbled upon some sites –and actually had the opportunity to meet some of the founders of these – that directly contribute to the Science 2.0 movement. I am sure these will be great tools for researchers, both in industry and in academia.

Order, Steady, Go!

At the top of the list of the anti-isolated, pro-cooperative pursuit of science is Science Exchange (https://www.scienceexchange.com/), a platform where researchers can order experiments online. This initiative was created based on the fact that oftentimes ideas cannot be carried out due to lack of local equipment or qualified personnel. After signing up on the website, researchers can look up providers, receive instant quotes, and compare providers to find the most suitable. Once a mutual agreement has been reached, the project can be monitored through a smooth bridge of communication between both parties, just as is the case with eBay. Science Exchange co-founder Elizabeth Lorns created this website as an alternative when she was having difficulties accessing local resources in order to complete her Ph.D. project at her home university.

Similarly, Assay Depot (https://www.assaydepot.com/) offers a public network of contract research, allowing organizations and businesses to order any type of lab services or science expertise.  Assay Depot is widely used by Big Pharma companies.

Share and access research on-the-go

Based on the growing potential of Science 2.0, Figshare (http://figshare.com/) came out as a sharing database where researchers can upload raw data or entire papers and control who can access this information. This initiative generates a global network of knowledge across all scientific disciplines.

A resource more focused on the area of drug discovery and pharmacology is the CDD Vault, (https://www.collaborativedrug.com/) which offers a database for biological and chemical data appealing to scientists interested in chemical compounds and their biological activity. With its “chemical intelligence,” CDD Vault identifies chemical structures and presents them in 2D and 3D, and has built-in calculators of the physical-chemical properties of molecules. This makes collaborations easy and practical between an internal and external network.

When affordability is the issue

In addition to providing public access to scientific expertise, resources, and innovative ways of information sharing and storing, the Internet facilitates research advancement by means of lowering the costs of experimentation.

Allowing all researchers access to chemical reagents and supplies at competitive prices was the dream of Sean Saver, the founder of P212121.com (http://store.p212121.com/). According to Saver, the “problem is that this money is wasted on overpriced chemicals and supplies.” He adds that he and his team “built a website that aggregates dozens of small companies to save researchers money as well as time from searching and ordering from multiple providers.” With his online store for chemicals and laboratory supplies, Saver envisioned an agreement with distributors to match prices offered to academic institutions, beating commercial prices.

When there is a lot to learn, there is always a place to start

For those still overwhelmed with the multitude of Internet tools for scientists and those feeling indecisive as to how to implement Science 2.0 to their own research, Mozilla launched an initiative called Science Labs (http://mozillascience.org/) where online classes and the scientific community converge. This online community promotes dialogue and the exchange of skills through online training, helping researchers take better advantage of the Internet to expedite scientific development and productivity.

Science 2.0 offers limitless options of information sharing and takes advantage of diversity by making it collaborative. I see Science 2.0 as a bridge connecting different levels of expertise and resources across the whole world. And although many still remain skeptical about the wide open approach to science, Science 2.0 will continue to support the development of research tools for as long as advocates continue to collaborate and add to the growing dialogue.

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