One of the barriers to the spread of scientific knowledge is the difficulty of reproducing a technique from the condensed and often carelessly written “Methods” section of a journal article. When techniques are novel or unusually demanding, sometimes the only way one can hope to repeat a colleague’s experiment is by first going to their lab to learn their methods first-hand. This is impractical in many ways: financially, logistically — not to mention politically, if the “colleague” in question is more of a competitor.

Wouldn’t it be nice if methods were published in video format, with a demonstration of every step and an accompanying verbal explanation?

It would be nice. And it would be real.

Leading the charge is JoVE: The Journal of Visualized Experiments, which is now in its fourth issue. From their About page:

State-of-the-art life science research has reached a level of complexity that is matched only by the complexity of the living species under investigation. At this stage, an essential requirement to advance basic research and to aid bench-to-bedside translation is the ability to rapidly transfer knowledge within the research community and to the general public. …

With participation of scientists from leading research institutions, the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) was established as a new, open access tool in life science publication and communication. We utilize a video-based approach to scientific publishing to fully capture all dimensions of life science research. Visualization greatly facilitates the understanding and efficient reproduction of fundamental experimental techniques, therefore contributing to the solution of two of the most challenging problems faced by today’s life science research community: (1) low transparency and reproducibility of biological experiments and (2) time-consuming learning of experimental techniques.

I think this is a great idea, and I encourage all life scientists to check out the journal, view some of the articles, and start spreading the word.

There’s nothing specifically biogerontological about JoVE’s focus, but as our field gets more and more reliant on high-throughput genomic and proteomic technologies (all of which rely on a healthy amount of “all in the wrist” technical mastery), we’re sure to benefit from the didactic value of methods published in this manner. And, of course, all science benefits from open-access publication and increased transparency in the dissemination of new knowledge.

By JoVE, I think they’re onto something!