by John S. James
Summary: How news feeds can advance biomedical research — as well as helping people follow specialized news.
A great challenge today is to help people find the key information they want and need, in the tsunami of new material that keeps coming out. Search engines cannot replace human judgment for alerting people to opportunities they did not know about at all, and therefore did not search for.
And the same news feeds for specialists could help research as well. Large AIDS conferences have thousands of abstracts presented in a few days; almost no one reads and understands all of them. Leaders and core groups focus on a few — so crucial but unusual discoveries may not get attention. A number of specialists scanning the conference presentations will catch some of these and alert an interested community immediately.
There are already AIDS news feeds, for example the Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report,
but we need many more, and the Kaiser service is labor intensive and probably expensive to maintain. An easier system would allow different experts to develop a great variety of possible news feeds — such as vaccines, AIDS-related cancers, treatment news for resource-limited settings, or basic-science issues.
Anyone, anywhere can set up a news feed like ours, completely free if they already have online access. For science and medicine we suggest using http://www.connotea.org (which is specialized for these fields) — and for other subjects, we suggest http://del.icio.us (which is simpler; this writer used it to collect links for http://www.peacephilly.org). You can include almost any news story or other public Web site on the list that you create. (Alternatively you could use a blog — but the “social bookmarking” services like Connotea and del.icio.us are easier because it takes only seconds to add a new Web page to your list, helping to keep it up to date.)
You can easily provide an important news service worldwide, in any specialized field where you have an interest and background, and need to keep up with new developments anyway.
For AIDS information, we think the next step will be news feeds by small groups, maybe two to ten people or more — or highly specialized feeds by individuals. Meanwhile see our experiment at www.aidsnews.org/now.
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