29 September 2011

Show And Tell--Sharing Science By Video

The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) makes hands-on science available by video. Real scientists demonstrate their experiments on line to accompany their publications. A picture being worth a thousand words, and a video being worth at least a thousand pictures, this novel channel gives fellow researchers (and budding scientists!) around the world clearer access to experimental procedures. Now JoVE is offering free access to developing-country researchers.

Those of us who have tried to figure out just how research was done by reading the often-cryptic "Materials and Methods" sections of scientific publications can appreciate the value of this approach.

JoVE has teamed up with the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) of the World Health Organization to provide this free access. Here is a press release about the initiative.

Many schools and libraries in developing countries cannot afford to subscribe to scientific journals, which are among the most expensive of periodicals (and highly profitable to their publishers). See this blog post by George Monbiot about the high cost of access to the scientific literature. I agree with his complaint that these very high pay walls prevent the wide dissemination of information that is essential to progress in science, and to its understanding by the public. "Secret" science is a sin, especially in our digitally connected world.

At least through programs like HINARI some researchers and students in some developing countries can avoid being completely cut off from current information. It is important that students of science and medicine, wherever they are, have the best possible access to current research if they are to understand the latest methods and developments. And if they can see that research being done, so much the better.

The contributions of researchers in developing countries are essential to the solution of many of today's most challenging technical problems in agricultural, public health, and environmental fields. On-line resources like HINARI, JoVE and the Public Library of Science will help.

David Wheat's Science In Action site has articles about science and math in the real world, weird science, science news, unexpected connections, and other cool science stuff. There is an index of the articles by topic here

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