A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources (FAQ)
smith-una at yale.edu
Sun Mar 28 17:19:21 EST 1993
Last-modified: 28 March 1993
A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources
Recent important changes are noted with '*' and those new to this version
are noted with '+' in the margin of the table of contents. As ever, comments
and suggestions for additional material are more than welcome.
Una Smith Department of Biology smith-una at yale.edu
New Haven, Connecticut 06511
-*- 0. Contents
+ 1. Conditions of Use
1. Some Mind-Boggling Statistics
+ 2. Netiquette
1. Newsgroups of Special Interest
+ 2. The Bionet and Bit.listserv Domains
*+ 3. Other Biology Domains
+ 4. Sources of Information
4. Listserver Mailing Lists
3. Gateways into Usenet
+ 5. Other Mailing Lists
*+ 6. Newsletters
*+ 7. Directories
+ 3. Information Archives
*+ 1. Bibliographies
*+ 2. Data Bases
+ 1. Online Help
*+ 2. Search Engines
+ 3. Software Archives
4. Access Tools
2. Anonymous Ftp
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
-*- 1. Conditions of Use
This FAQ may be freely distributed, provided that it is not edited in
any way, beyond removal of the headers above the "Version" line. It
may be freely adapted, provided that the adapted document is neither
represented as being this FAQ, nor as being written by me. Please
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, without permission from the author.
However, its use is explicitly 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 acknowledge 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."
Usenet news.answers. ~20 pages.
The most current version of this FAQ is posted monthly in the Usenet
newsgroups sci.bio, bionet.general and news.answers, and archived as
"pub/usenet/news.answers/biology/guide" in the anonymous ftp archive
-*- 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 1993a), 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.
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 generally 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
* Requests by students for explicit answers to homework and exam or essay
questions are generally not welcome. Requests for help understanding
problems in biology are welcome, but the requester should demonstrate
at least a basic understanding of the question.
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 newsgroup; the choice of
whether to post a (public) reply or send (private) e-mail is a personal
decision. If you send a reply by e-mail, and would prefer that it be
kept private, you should say so in your note, because otherwise the other
person may share your comments with others. If the original poster
promises to post a summary at the outset, then all replies should be
sent by e-mail, unless they constitute an important re-direction of the
Care should be invested in writing summaries:
* The "best" answers should come first.
* All answers should be separated clearly, and nicely formatted.
* A simple concatenation of all the answers is not adequate; instead
redundancies, irrelevancies, verbosities and errors of fact or
spelling should be edited out. It is appropriate to use square
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