Jul 2, 2007

Journal of Visualized Experiments

The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) seems to be a very interesting initiative. Already in its fourth issue, it's been launched as "an online research journal employing visualization to increase reproducibility and transparency in biological sciences". The performance of several microbiology-related techniques can be directly watched on the available videos, including: microscopic observation of termite microbial symbionts, large-scale screening of metagenomic libraries, and bacterial gene expression analysis using microarrays. Other biological disciplines are also covered, such as neuroscience, developmental biology, cellular biology and plant biology.

Definitely, a visual experience of a real experiment goes beyond any written description of the procedure. The central concept in JoVE is very appealing, but I have several doubts concerning its practical success:

  • Is a majority of the scientific community willing to participate in such a transparency effort?
  • Will you uncover all those small manipulation details, perhaps painfully distilled during hard hours and years, needed to achieve a perfect result in your preferred technique?
  • Why should you bother to record those experiments and submit the video to JoVE?
  • How important are those small technical details for a lab to be competitive in its field?
  • Despite all the pre-made kits, commercial enzymes, sophisticated machinery and the like, how much art or craftsmanship is there in scientific experimentation today?

Origin: a comment by Umesh on an article at The Scientist (Shouldn't you be online? -- Ferreting out online opportunities for scientists by Richard Gallagher).

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