Video blogs are getting more and more interesting. This one, My JoVE, isn’t really a blog so much as a repository of valuable information for biologists, but it aspires to become a kind of video journal. JoVE stands for Journal of Visualized Experiments, and they’re trying to attack two big problems in biological research: “low transparency and reproducibility of biological experiments, … and time-consuming learning of experimental techniques.” Here’s their answer to the question: why a video-based scientific journal?
As every practicing biology researcher knows, it takes days, weeks or sometimes months and years to learn and apply new experimental techniques. It is especially difficult to reproduce newly published studies describing the most advanced state-of-the-art techniques. Thus, a major part of the Ph.D. and post-doctoral training in life sciences is devoted to learning laboratory techniques and procedures.
They are addressing two needs specific to the biology community, but they are picking up another one along the way: educating non-biologists and interested amateurs. You can find lots of experimental protocols online (see OpenWetWare), but these suffer from a few shortcomings: they use unfamiliar vocabulary, unavailable equipment, and they are often written in the stilted science-report prose that is beaten into all student scientists.
But like the how-to videos at instructables.com, these videos are delightfully conversational, and anybody can look at the shape of an Erlenmeyer flask without having to know the specific term for it. I am unlikely to buy an electron microscope any time soon, but I like to know what it looks like to drive one. I will certainly admit that watching someone use micro-forceps to invert the cuticle on a fruit fly larva and fish out the central nervous system is very far from knowing how to do it yourself. Still, it’s amazing how much those summer camp arts-and-crafts skills pay off in the lab.
(Spotted on the Sciencebase Science Blog)