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The “wiki” spirit applied to the world of science

In the scientific community is growing the awareness of the need to share knowledge, as witnessed by the increasing number of initiatives to gather and share knowledge on different fields of science, with particular regard to bioscience. This is not only because of the acceptable (though not universally accepted) principle that scientific knowledge should not be restricted to people who can afford subscription to Journals, but also because free access to scientific literature can be useful for both hypothesis and discovery generation. This means that the more people will get access to knowledge, the faster the discovery pace will be speeded up. Besides open access Journals – which are already a well established reality in the world of science – hundreds of websites are offering the opportunity of exploiting human knowledge to a virtually unlimited number of subjects. In the biology field, public repositories of scientific knowledge are being funded by highly prestigious Institutions such as the UK Natural Environment Research Council (www.nerc.ac.uk) and the Cancer Research UK (www.cancerresearchuk.org) organizations. In the biomedical world, especially after mapping the entire human genome, investigators are greatly helped in their everyday work by tens of databanks dedicated to the biological information on single molecules (one for all, the NCBI multidatabase at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.gquery/gquery.fcgi). As regards human trials, the largest database publicly available is that of the US National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov/Search/SearchClinicalTrialsAdvanced.aspx), which however only reports a list of trial titles without information on the results. Finally, among these initiatives, I have recently come across the Melanoma Molecular Map Project website (www.mmmp.org), which I found unique as it transversally collects information on the molecular features that make up this type of cancer and thus potentially useful to improve the therapeutic options in the clinical setting. Websites like this are truly inspired to the founding principle of an eye-opening experience such as Wikipedia, that is open-access knowledge collection made by and for users. I strongly believe that this type of initiatives are destined to revolutionize not only the way to diffuse science but also to make the most of science: in fact the huge and ever growing amount of information can be rationally organized and maximally exploited only by putting together the pieces of the puzzle currently scattered in thousands of scientific publications accessible to a greatly limited number of subjects.




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