In my first year in the Eisen lab, I was lucky to be able to participate on the Undergraduate Genome Sequencing Project in which I published the draft genome of Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, the first of it’s genus. An important aspect of this project was blogging about what we were doing: All the successes, the failures, and everything in between, something that I was terrible at evidenced by my one maybe two blog posts. However, the longer I have been in this lab, I find the significance of social media in science, both to myself and the world, grows.
After almost a year since the paper was published, the Eisen lab received an email inquiring about my blog post on Curtobacterium and the difficulties we had with getting enough active DNA and continuing with sequencing. They wanted to know if we were having trouble with DNA extractions on the bacteria, especially since they were interested in sequencing other species of Curtobacterium and were worried if the genus was finicky. We had later found that the viability of our ligase decreased with each successive freeze-thaw causing the huge issue in DNA library prep and were able to inform them that extracting DNA and sequencing Curtobacterium should be a relatively painless process.
There were two things that stuck me as interesting when David, my supervisor on the project, informed me about the email exchange. First, that it was awesome that a blog post that I, an insignificant undergraduate, wrote was seen by other researchers and contained information (as small as it was) that could help them in their research. Second, and more abstract, that science has increasingly become more of a collaborative effort. When I originally thought about sharing in science, the infamous Koch-Pasteur rivalry quickly came to mind. Information simply wasn’t shared as readily at that time. I like to think idealistically that the idea of hoarding information to get ahead of contemporaries has become less common and science will become even more collaborative than it is now. Or the idea of charging to view more than just the Abstract will cease to exist and the number of open-access articles will continue to grow because at the root of researchers (at least originally) is the pursuit of knowledge and dissemination of information. Just some musings I had and who am I to talk? I haven’t even graduated undergrad yet and haven’t joined the race to find the richly rewarding cure to cancer.