A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources (FAQ)

Una Smith smith-una at yale.edu
Mon Feb 22 16:44:19 EST 1993

Archive-name: biology/guide
Last-modified: 22 February 1993
Version: 1.0

	          A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources
This is a major revision.  Previous versions, known as "Bionet FAQ", have
appeared in bionet.general and bionet.announce over the past year.  I have
abandoned that title, which has now been taken over by another document.
I will no longer distribute my list of biology-related listserver mailing
lists (formerly "bio-lists"):  it appears here as Appendix A.  Appendix B
is a bibliography of sorts, and additional references are given in the text. 
There is now a table of contents, which seems a better structure than the
old question-and-answer format, given how long this FAQ has become.  I hope
this change will help you to read the whole thing, and that you will find the
whole thing worth reading.  Please share it with your colleagues and friends.

As ever, I welcome comments and suggestions for additional material.

	Una Smith	Department of Biology		smith-una at yale.edu
			Yale University
			New Haven, Connecticut  06511

-*- 0. Table of Contents

    1. Conditions of Use 
    2. Networking
        1. Some Mind-Boggling Statistics
        2. Netiquette
        3. Usenet
            1. Newsgroups of Special Interest
            2. A Note About the Bionet Newsgroups
            3. Sources of Information
        4. Listserver Mailing Lists
            1. Commands
            2. Archives
            3. Gateways into Usenet
        5. Other Mailing Lists
    3. Information Archives
        1. Data Bases
        2. Software Archives
        3. Access Tools
            1. Telnet 
            2. Anonymous Ftp
            3. Gopher
            4. Archie
            5. Veronica
            6. WAIS
            7. The Web
    4. Commercial Services
    5. Frequently Asked Questions
        1. Does anyone have an e-mail address for X?
        2. How do I find a good graduate program?
        3. Where can I get old newsgroup/mailing list articles?
        4. Where can I find biology-related job announcements?

    A. Assorted Listserver Mailing Lists
    B. Bibliography
    C. Contributors

-*- 1.  Conditions of Use

    I encourage you to share this FAQ with your colleagues and friends.

    This FAQ may be freely distributed, provided that it is not edited in
    any way.  It may be freely adapted, provided that the adapted document
    is not represented as being this FAQ, nor as being written by me, but
    does cite this FAQ as the original document.  This FAQ may not be sold
    for profit, nor included in any document that is sold for profit, in
    either the original or an adapted form.  However, its use is permitted
    in paper-based journals or newsletters that are provided to subscribers
    at or below the cost of printing and mailing.

    If you make significant use of any document, data or software provided
    via the Internet, the authors would be grateful if you would cite them
    or otherwise acknowlege their efforts.  Virtually every service or
    resource mentioned in this FAQ (and this FAQ itself) is the un-paid,
    personal effort of scientists and graduate students. 

    This FAQ may be cited as:

	Smith, Una R. (1993) "A Biologist's Guide to the Internet."
	Published monthly in the Usenet newsgroups sci.bio, bionet.general
        and news.answers, and archived as file "biology/guide" in the
        anonymous ftp archive on pit-manager.mit.edu.  ~20 pages.

-*- 2.  Networking

    The Internet has become an exellent place in which to look for academic
    and professional position announcements, conference announcements and
    calls for papers, and important notices about recent events in many
    fields of biology, especially molecular biology.  Generally, notices of
    all forms appear on the Internet well in advance of traditional journals
    and newsletters.  Increasingly, scientific interest groups, both formal
    and informal ones, maintain electronic discussion groups, directories,
    digests and newsletters.  These resources are distributed in three
    principal ways:  via Usenet newsgroups, (automated) listserver mailing
    lists, and mailing lists administered by real people.  Increasingly, the
    two forms of mailing list have "gateways" into Usenet newsgroups.  

-*- 2.1.  Some Mind-Boggling Statistics

    Recently, approximately 300 thousand articles per week were distributed
    worldwide through Usenet (newsstats at uunet.uu.net 1993).  This traffic
    constituted roughly 40 megabytes per day of announcements, questions and
    answers, advice and bits of program code, references, heated debates, and
    data in various formats.  There are now nearly a million registered
    computers on the Internet, and thus tens of millions of people;  an
    estimated 7 million people have accounts on 65 thousand computers carrying
    Usenet, and nearly 2 million people read Usenet news at least occasionally
    (Reid 1993b).  There are several thousand world-wide Usenet newsgroups,
    several thousand listserver mailing lists, and several thousand other,
    generally small, mailing lists. 

    The numbers are difficult to gather, but it appears that there are on
    the order of 10 thousand people who read biology-related Usenet newsgroups
    (Reid 1983a), and there may be that many using mailing lists for topics
    in biology.  All together, there are a hundred or so newsgroups and
    mailing lists (via listservers or otherwise) that may be of particular
    interest to biologists.

-*- 2.2.  Netiquette

    The professionally-oriented newsgroups and mailing lists follow certain
    conventions of etiquette.  It was not always so, but as the number of
    participants has grown over the years from a few dozen to several
    thousand, or even tens of thousands in the most popular newsgroups, the
    participants have gradually found it necessary to institute standards of
    behavior.  These are none other than those used by most people at public
    events such as academic conferences.  In fact, most of the science-related
    newsgroups (and mailing lists) are very much like mid-sized meetings of
    any professional society, except that they never end.  The participants
    come and go as they please, but the discussions and exchange of ideas and
    information continue as though they had a life of their own.

    The articles tend to be of the following types:

    * Discussions on topics of general interest.  Questions on specific
      topics, techniques, or organisms are also welcome.  Above all else,
      the occasional lengthly discussions on various issues may be the
      single most rewarding aspect of the newsgroups and mailing lists.

    * Announcements of upcoming conferences or other events, or grant
      deadlines.  In Usenet, announcments can be set to expire (and thus
      disappear from the list of current articles), and notices about
      lectures etc. may be limited in their distribution so that they are
      seen only by readers in the appropriate geographical area. 
    * Academic and professional job announcements, including many graduate
      fellowships.  These are sometimes posted in newsgroups/mailing lists
      reserved for such notices, often well in advance of publication in
      traditional paper journals or newsletters.

    * Reports or comments on new books, papers, methods or software.  People
      often report on interesting scientific news in the media, or forward
      items from other newsgroups or mailing lists.  Full citation of sources
      is always appropriate and appreciated.  Requests for references or
      comments are also welcome, and, when posed as specific questions of
      general interest, frequently lead to successful discussions.

    * Unacceptable articles include commercial advertisements, political
      lobbying messages, and anything not pertaining directly to the topic
      or purview of the newsgroup or mailing list.  Discussions about
      commercial products, especially books and software, are generally
      allowed as long as they do not constitute advertisements.

    Quite a few documents have been written about computer network etiquette
    (or "netiquette");  several are available in news.answers.  Some of the
    advice bears repeating:

    * Always include your full name and e-mail address 

    Put these at the end of your message, with your usual signature.  You
    might want to use a .signature file (standard on most Unix systems, also
    implemented for Usenet and mail readers under VM/CMS) to make this
    automatic. This is necessary because strange things often happen to
    headers in e-mail or Usenet articles sent from one network to another,
    and some people use software that strips the header information.
    * Write useful summaries   
    Whenever a question or request for information results in many replies,
    it is expected that the person who posted the original article will
    compile and post a summary of the responses.  That person is expected to
    exercise discretion and tact when compiling and editing the replies, to
    ensure a fair and accurate summary.
    Answers to very esoteric questions are often best sent directly to the
    person who asked for help, rather than to the new

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