Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spotlight on:

In an age when it feels as though if it isn't online then it doesn't exist, there are an increasing number of programs/solutions/tools to help people connect/manage or simply get their work done. This same mentality is being used in the laboratory via

Check out this post on techcrunch which gives an overview of the motivation for and history of the site.

Though I have not used the site extensively, I've seen a few things:
- In order to join you must have a .edu email address and have a PI or Advisor listed as the person you are working for. This allows teams working in a specific group/lab to link together and share news, reports, articles, papers, protocols, etc.
- You can search for relevant published papers by keyword and add them to your collection. You can also receive updates when papers are made available that match your search criteria. For example, the keywords 'water purification' will land you (in preview mode) papers as diverse as "Sequential and simultaneous determination of bromate and chlorite (DBPs) by flow techniques: kinetic differentiation." AND " Feasibility of water purification technology in rural areas of developing countries." , among others.
- Within the lab you can receive/create events, notes, and notebook entries. This could be very useful for a PI trying to communicate within a large lab group, and also very helpful for teams working from more than one physical location.
- You can also view other members of labmeeting, along with their affiliation and areas of research. This could very well provide an interesting setting for researchers who have questions, are seeking expertise, or simply want to connect with other scientists working on similar issues. In a way, this aspect of the site could act as a social networking tool for laboratories.

As I am not working in a lab, I can not attest to whether or not it is actually being utilized, though the members' page looks is quite extensive. It looks like the site is used only by US institutions. If used internationally, I imagine it could help countries, both developed and developing, tap into new resources. One topic some of us at GW have come across is the idea of the 'new invisible college'. Could labmeeting be used as a tool to bring science to resource poor areas and help them plug into the scientific network?

If you have friends and colleagues in labs, please tell them about this tool. I'd be interested in hearing about what they think.

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