Archive for the 'web technology' Category

Publication Alert Services

I did a little survey today to see what kinds of e-mail or RSS alert services Brandeis scientists (spanning the range from undergrads to faculty) use to learn about new science papers.

About half of them use an alert service. 28% use more than one service, while 20% use a single service. Of the half that don’t use alert services, most of them (42% of total) would consider doing so. Only 10% are turned off by the idea.

Of the services people use, PubMed is the most popular (hardly surprising given how life science heavy we are). Out of 232 responses so far, people said they used alert services from these suppliers:

PubMed 60 34%
   via BioMail 6 3%
   via PubCrawler 4 2%
   via HubMed 1
Individual journals 45 25%
Google 32 18%
arXiv 14 8%
Web of Science 10 6%
SciFinder 7 4%
Brandeis library 5 3%
Faculty of 1000 3 1%
ResearchGate 3 1%
NASA Astrophysics 1
Annual Review 1
EurekAlert 1
HighWire Press 1
ScienceDirect 1
National Academies Press 1

I’m surprised by the strong showing of individual journals and publishers — who says traditional publishing is dying?

If you need some instructions how to set up alert services, see our wiki.


I had a question from a science professor yesterday… basically along the lines:

Why do I have an email from ResearchGate saying my colleague Prof. X invited me to join, but Prof. X says he never did that? Are they spammers? Is this legit?

while yesterday the media were announcing

Bill Gates, the world’s richest person, is helping lead a $35 million investment in ResearchGate, a networking website for scientists.

So what’s up with ResearchGate anyway?

They seem to aspire to be Facebook or LinkedIn for scientists (of course many scientists use those already), and they claim to want to help scientists make their research visible, and to “connect and collaborate”.

I don’t much see the need. I think I would be suspicious of someone who spent too much time putting their papers (or unpublished data) on a social media site instead of relying on the existing journal publication mechanisms.

But I recognize that opinions vary. If you’re a Brandeis scientist with positive or negative views about ResearchGate, drop me a line and tell me why it’s good or bad, and I’ll report back here.

Reviving the Technology Help Forum

At one time, we had a lively public technology help forum (on where a few of us (I miss Rich!) answered questions for Brandeis users brave enough to ask questions in public.

I’m trying to create this atmosphere again. To ask a question in public, go to the new Brandeis Technology Forum (a Google Group) and post it there. You can also email your question to techforum-group  AT

To see recent posts, look at the RSS feed at left.

Update: We’re going to do this, but negotiations are underway about whether we do it within our “Google Apps domain” or without. So we’re holding off a little.

Update 2: We are now doing this inside our “Google Apps domain” and I changed the addresses above. Please post!


The perils of relying on social networking software

TWiki Turns Ten This Year

Actually, TWiki the Open Source Enterprise Wiki and Web 2.0 Application Platform is even older than that, but our local installation at will be 10 years old come May.

There was at least one software and hardware upgrade along the way, and a few documentation purges (due to executive decisions, not software malfunctions), but it still serves a great purpose in providing collaboratively edited and access-controlled documentation of all sorts to various groups at the university.

Happy anniversary!

Why is there a squirrel here? He’s been the mascot of the Bio Wiki from the start. I’ve always seen my wiki as a place to bury bits of useful technical information with the hope that I’ll be able to sniff them out and dig them up for later use.

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