Embarrasing Development in Biology Services

Una Smith una at phy.duke.edu
Sat Feb 15 15:37:16 EST 1992


Replying to a comment by Dave Kristofferson,
Reinhart (doelz at urz.unibas.ch) writes:

>Maybe we'll meet in March in Heidelberg, and you'll see how difficult it is 
>to get NEWS to biologists. In Europe, things are MUCH different. The worst 
>problem is than many people of potential interest are not on the network 
>thus can't use the network community as lobby. 

[stuff deleted]

The problem is rather how to get biologists to
use e-mail in the first place.  Until that happens,
there will not be much serious interest among a
sufficient number of biologists to get Usenet
feeds wherever they work.  I highly recommend to
anyone who is concerned about electronic networking
among life scientists to look around their own
departments.  Usenet, and perhaps any network,
grows from the bottom up, not the top down.

The night before last I heard Joe Felsenstein
speak to a group of population geneticists here
at Duke University.  Although the room was packed
to overflowing with perhaps 50 faculty and
graduate students, I was the only person there
besides Joe who reads the bionet newsgroups.  The 
reasons for that are historical;  Usenet was not
available to non-computer scientists at Duke 
until about 6 months ago (some of you may have
noticed that I am posting from Duke now), and few
biologists at Duke had found much reason to use
the Internet for anything more than e-mail.

I hope that computer use will improve rapidly,
now that more services are available locally,
but I will never forget the hours and hours I
spent trying to convince administrators at Duke
that this resource was something we all needed.
They thought, quite logically, that if it were
such an important resource, many more scientists
would be asking for it.  Therein lies the problem:
how are scientists supposed to know that something
is necessary if they have never seen it themselves?

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have access
to these marvelous tools, and to know how and why to
use them, must go out of our way to introduce them
to our fellow colleagues and students.  If we take
care to empower the individuals around us now, there
will soon be enough of us around the world to form
the influential lobby we so clearly need to become.

     Una Smith
     School of the Environment
     Duke University
-- 
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