World Wide Science

The Antibody Resource Page antibody at antibodyresource.com
Thu Sep 3 23:00:14 EST 1998


This article has been sponsored by the Antibody Resource Page
(http://www.antibodyresource.com/) as part of an effort to encourage
scientists to take a part in the World Wide Web (WWW).  

World Wide Science
	
	The exchange of scientific ideas and thought has always been in the
spirit of the World Wide Web (WWW).  Originally created in 1990 as a
method of efficacious communication among physicists at the European
Laboratory of Particle Physics, the WWW is now a medium by which all
scientists can network and conduct science on a global scale. While
corporations are just starting to realize the sales potential of
commercializing the internet, scientists have long been using the WWW to
contribute in their fields.  
	The internet webpage gives a scientist the freedom to be the inventor,
author, editor, and publisher of his own material.  Quite often, the
creation of a scientist's webpage results from a need to simply organize
the vast amount of scientific material on the internet for his personal
use.  Dr. Andrew Martin, Lecturer at University College London and
Technical Director of Inpharmatica, originally found this to be the case
in 1994, but soon developed his website into a platform to freely
disperse a series of self-written programs for antibody sequence
analysis (http://www.biochem.ucl.ac.uk/~martin/abs/).  One such program,
KabatMan, allows the Kabat antibody database to be searched for various
sequence features.  Martin notes, "My background has been a mixture of
biochemistry and computing, so employing web technology was very
straightforward."  Because of his webpage, Martin now has several
hundred registered users of his software which may be downloaded from
his website.  In addition, his KabatMan program has been cited in a
variety of peer-reviewed journals.
	The graphical interface of the internet is one of its great strengths
as a scientific resource.   Since 1994, Dr. Mike Clark, Lecturer in the
Department of Pathology at Cambridge University, has maintained a
website of immunoglobulin images as part of his undergraduate course in 
immunology (http://www.path.cam.ac.uk/~mrc7/mikeimages.html).  Using
internet freeware like RasMol and a variety of high-end graphics
programs, Clark designs his graphics to teach the principles of antibody
structure and function.  The popularity of his site has been the result
of being linked to internet search engines and comprehensive immunology
resources such as the Antibody Resource Page
(http://www.antibodyresource.com/).  With such exposure, he now receives
requests from other educators who want to use his material for their own
classes.  Clark realizes that "one big advantage of the internet is that
it is possible to inspire and educate students even if they are hundreds
or thousands of miles away!"
	Another section of the WWW frequented by scientists is Usenet, a global
bulletin board system in which questions and comments can be posted in
nearly every scientific discipline.  However, when a discipline is not
appropriately covered, scientists are free to start their own discussion
groups.  Amanda Wilson, Assistant Manager of the Electron Microscopy
Unit at St George's Medical School, did just that.  When she found only
limited resources in her area of interest, immunocytochemistry, she
founded "sci.bio.immunocytochem" in 1997.  Issues covered in the
newsgroup include immunocytochemistry-related tips, techniques,
troubleshooting, jobs, conferences, and history.
	Wilson has found her own newsgroup a crucial networking tool.  When a
protocol to do ultrastructural immunocytochemistry called for freezing
cells in liquid propane, she realized that she had neither the
experience nor apparatus to start such a procedure.  After posting a
question on whether anyone had experience with such a device, she was
contacted via email by University of Oklahoma researchers, Scott Russell
and Greg Strout, located over 4000 miles away from her London based
computer.  Their reply contained details for an inexpensive and readily
constructed freezing apparatus.  With the help of her own institute and
continued emails from her new found collaborators, she is currently
processing tissue frozen in the new device. Like many scientists who
take advantage of Usenet, Wilson feels "It is wonderful being able to
ask other experts in this extremely specialized field for help and
advice." 
	As the WWW grows in popularity, so will the opportunities for
scientists to take advantage of this new tool.  In theory, the
activities of science are no longer confined by institutional or
regional borders.  Scientists have the ability to make a difference in
their fields on a new global scale.  In practice, the success of the WWW
as a scientific resource will depend on the participation of dedicated
scientists willing to take a ride on this information superhighway.

This article is copyrighted by the Antibody Resource Page (ARP)
(http://www.antibodyresource.com/).  It may be freely distributed so
long as the ARP and its URL is included as its source.  Educational
institutions are especially encouraged to use the article as part of
their internet teaching curriculum.



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