Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂
Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we are going to take a look at a tool geared towards future geneticists. Though that might scare the layperson off, the site is really geared towards the undergraduate students, and therefor has a very understandable content. A person with a basic question can use the tool to get trusted information, and can hope to understand it. Let’s take a look at Scitable.
From the site: “A free science library and personal learning tool brought to you by Nature Publishing Group, the world’s leading publisher of science. Scitable currently concentrates ongenetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms. As you cultivate your understanding of modern genetics on Scitable, you will explore not only what we know about genetics and the ways it impacts our society, but also the data and evidence that supports our knowledge.”
Scitable acts like an online research library and classroom, providing the user with several points of contact for experts and other interested learners. Site navigation is very easy and clear, and a free account offers you the opportunity to follow learning paths, bookmark articles, and join group discussions. Sign up for Scitable is relatively easy, and I was happy to find that their requirements for password acceptability is quite stringent.
Once you have signed up, your homepage will be the base of your navigation.
Notice that on this page you will find all of your saved articles, group information, discussions, friends, messages, and calendar.
From the home page, you have several choices to proceed through the site. There is a tool bar on the top of the page that provides site destinations, and is a good place to begin.
The link “Topics” is a browse by topic link. This would be useful if you are interested in a variety of things, or want to take a look at an overview of topics on the site. I found it interesting that the topics page reminded me of science class because it is organized into groups and sub-groups. You choose the overall topic:
And then you choose a more specific part of that topic by click on “show all,” starting at the beginning, or choosing at will.
Once you have selected a sub-topic, you will be led to the article, explaining the topic you have chosen.
The next link in the over all navigation bar is “People.” This link will help you network with other Scitable users, be them professors or other students. You can either search for people giving specific peramitors:
Or you can browse the people who have already joined the Scitable network.
As with any social networking aspect of a website, gathering a friend group can help you navigate the site as well as find trusted experts to answer questions.
The next link in your navigation bar is “Groups.”
Joining a group on Scitable gives you access to discussion topics geared towards a special interest. Though this aspect of the site will likely only be for serious students of genetics, I think that reading the topics could be beneficial to anyone interested in a specific topic.
The last thing we’re going to discuss is the “Learning Paths” link.
I found that the Learning Paths could be quite useful. They’re created similar to an online class you might find on other sites. You must be a member of Scitable to view a learning path. You can choose the topic you would like to learn about from a list of given paths. Once you have done that you will be brought into the learning path, and your progress will be saved on your homepage.
This will give you a more in-depth tour of a group of topics to help you understand the overall meaning.
One of the things I appreciated the most about this site is the availability of experts to answer your questions.
Clicking on “Students” will bring you to the Study Center, where you can ask questions regarding genetics to experts that are associated with the site. As a librarian, I appreciate this aspect of the site. Finding a source of trusted information on the open web is definitely something to remember.
The searching aspect of this site is pretty straight forward. Enter your term into the search box on the upper right hand side of the page, and you will be given a list of results to choose from. A basic search result will look like this:
One notable aspect of the searching function is that a search for a topic word like “genome” will also bring back results in “people” and “groups,” so you can explore the topic socially and find other users that are interested in the topic.
Any article has a share function, and you have the ability to bookmark the article within the website if you are logged in.
In closing, I have to admit I was extremely impressed with this site. As a layperson myself in the sciences, I felt that I could use this site easily and understand the information therein. I also felt that if I had a question, the network available would provide me with an answer.
I realize that the overall topic of this website is geared towards a specific group of science students, and has a pointed research topic. However, the science of genetics has a huge impact on our lives, be it in the cure of diseases or the discovery of the Human Genome. Genetics impacts science as well as culture, and I felt that this site did an admirable job explaining that impact.
As always, you thoughts and comments are welcome.