"eScience" Is New Frontier

Harvard University and Microsoft’s research division co-hosted a workshop this week to promote new platforms for presenting scientific research electronically.

Approximately 60 people from software and media companies attended a session on Monday morning featuring live demonstrations of about 20 innovative “eScience” technology products that could enhance research and dissemination of technical knowledge.

Moshe Pritsker, CEO, editor-in-chief, and co-founder of Journal of Visualized Experiments, gave a 10-minute demonstration of his project JoVe—a platform that incorporates video multimedia into scientific presentations.

“We think the traditional paper-format research publication is very unproductive,” Pritsker said.

“People can get lost reading the content they are not familiar with,” he said.


Pritsker said the platform has three parts—introduction, animation and experimental procedures—corresponding to the abstract, experimental design, description of the results, and other components found in a conventional research paper. With JoVe, scientists can more easily communicate temporal aspects of their results, such as change in a given metric over time—a result integral to many life science experiments.

“We think JoVe can overcome the inherent limitations of traditional, static print journals, thereby adding an entirely new parameter to the communication of experimental data and research results,” Pritsker said.

Zooniverse was another new technology, presented by Chris Lintott, director of Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium.

Lintott said he believes that Zooniverse—a website that solicits online users to participate in citizen science research—could provide laypersons with an entry point to a variety of scientific research projects.

The site, which helps researchers collect data from hundreds of thousands of users, also has potential as a tool of scientific education, Lintott said.

For example, one of Zooniverse’s projects asks users to classify galaxies according to their shapes—a task that the human brain performs better than even the most advanced computer—in order to collect data that could lead to a better understanding on how these galaxies were formed. Participants can also gain a better understanding of astronomy.

“I think the real live demonstrations of the workshop really help people to understand the point of these projects better,” said Gregory J. Gordon, president & CEO at Social Science Research Network, a participant of the workshop. “It’s also interesting to see these applications are expanding into the social science sphere as well.”