Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nature's Free Science Library Scitable

Nature Education, the educational wing of global science publisher Nature Publishing Group (NPG), today announced that founding partners Roche Applied Science, Tata Consultancy Services, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and New England Biolabs have pledged substantial financial sponsorship to Scitable, Nature Education's free online science library for the global educational community. The combined sponsorship signifies the companies' commitment to support NPG's goal of making high-quality digital science education broadly available to college and high school students in every country of the world.

"These organizations recognize that the future of their industries -- and the societies within which they operate -- depends on raising the breadth and quality with which we train and retain young scientists in every region of the world," said Vikram Savkar, Senior Vice President and Publishing Director at Nature Publishing Group. "They are demonstrating clear and material dedication to the cause by underwriting cost-free student access to our high quality educational content, filling a critical resource gap in many regions."

I had a very interesting conversation with Vikram today where he spells out the history of this important project and where it is heading in the future. The audio is posted here:

Download MP3

Scitable draws upon Nature Publishing Group's 140-year strength in scientific research publishing to provide a library of authoritative educational information, ranging from introductory, media-rich online courses to advanced articles combining summaries of milestone research papers with thorough explanations of key concepts. Scitable also provides a comprehensive suite of educational tools designed to help faculty immerse students in the library, including virtual classrooms and learning paths, as well as a collaborative network of scientists, teachers, journalists, students, and lifelong-learners who can connect for discussion, mentorship, and informal instruction. The site currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms. I am really looking forward to future versions that will allow the social media components of the site which will provide a rich level of interactivity between students, researchers, instructors and writers.

As sponsors, participating companies underwrite cost-free access to chosen areas of the site on behalf of the global student community. Roche Applied Science, a producer of reagents and systems for life sciences, is sponsoring student access to the Genes and Disease section. "Our commitment to the development of research tools for breakthrough scientific discovery has always been tied to Roche's dedication to improving the quality of human life," said Manfred Baier, Head of Roche Applied Science. "Our partnership with Nature Education on Scitable is in line with our continued efforts to expand access to the research tools and scientific information which will help young scientists succeed in expanding our knowledge."

Tata Consultancy Services, a provider of technology-based solutions to the healthcare and publishing industries, is sponsoring access to the Evolutionary Genetics and Population Genetics areas and partnered with Nature Education to develop advanced online collaboration tools. "Usage of social platforms can greatly aid innovation in the sciences, healthcare, education, and media sectors. Our partnership with Nature Education on Scitable is an example of how social technologies can fundamentally expand the reach and impact of the education sector," said Kamal Bhadada, VP and Head of Media and Information Services for Tata Consultancy Services.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals will be launch sponsors of a forthcoming unit on RNAi, the technology at the heart of Alnylam's success in developing innovative therapeutics. "Alnylam is committed to furthering the advancement of science on a global scale and across all levels of education," said John Maraganore, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. "We are delighted to be partnering with Nature Education on Scitable, and applaud them for the initiative they have demonstrated in establishing this important program. Our scientists look forward to sharing their insight and expertise in areas such as RNAi therapeutics, as well as learning from the Scitable community."

New England Biolabs, a provider of reagents to the life science industry, will be launch sponsors for forthcoming units on restriction enzymes and related topics. "One of the founding principles of New England Biolabs is the advancement of science and education. We are pleased to be a part of Nature Education's Scitable and feel that it will become an invaluable tool for future generations of scientists," said Andy Bertera, Director of Marketing.

"Science teachers have been asking for digital science education resources that unite all of the sciences in one space, incorporate a research-based perspective, allow class-by-class customization, and are accessible to all students," said Savkar. "Today, through the support of our sponsors, we have taken an important step towards making that a full reality."

Future plans for Nature Education involve expanding Scitable's content library across other fields in the life and physical sciences and developing a mobile site extending access to the library to smartphones. As Vikram pointed out earlier, this will also expand access in under developed areas like Africa. A site that provides a rich and useful experience, even on a small screen without the power of a smartphone, could help provide access to a powerful core of scientific information that otherwise would be out of reach. I am very excited about the possibilities of Scitable...

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