A guiding principle of the Alzforum homepage is that the site should be "the daily tabloid for AD research," one that AD researchers would want as their personal homepage. To keep our readers coming back, we work hard to keep the homepage dynamic, useful and entertaining. Almost daily, the readers will find something of interest: the latest news, a live discussion, conference reports, commentaries, grant and job postings, new genes and mouse models, and so on.
The Alzforum team strives to make the website an essential resource for scientists by adding value to information that is already available in the public domain. How we pursue this goal is illustrated by specific examples of our major content areas.
Many AD researchers keep up with the literature by browsing the Papers of the Week, because it provides a high-quality list of articles about AD, related disorders, key genes, relevant developments from broad areas of basic research, and advances in technology -a list that would require multiple searches on PubMed. The "POW" citations are enriched with news stories and commentaries, as well as links to related articles. High-impact articles are designated as "ARF Recommended" papers and "Milestones." For many scientists, the real-time reaction by peers supplies context that is missing from traditional journal publications.
Papers of theWeekisessentialfor theknowledge management role of theAlzforum, anditdrivesmuchofthe contentdevelopment on thesite. Editorsscreenthe citationsfor news and for data to send to curators of the AlzGene database, Telemakus AD biomark-ers database, mutations directory, research models database, antibody database, and so forth. The scientific advisoryboard annotates new citations on a weekly cycle. Thus, the "firehose" of PubMed citations is channeled into multiple streams and helps ensure that the Alzforum's information resources are up-to-date.
Our news operation has been directed by Gabrielle Strobel since 2001. It has become one of the most important ways in which Alzforum delivers value, by providing reporting and analysis of news of broad relevance to AD research composed by journalists with extensive knowledge of the field. Our writers aim to place new findings in the context of other research. With their detailed conference coverage, they have mastered the art of informing the field of new developments many months ahead of formal publication to accelerate the spread of new ideas, without interfering with formal publication. They also scout for discoveries and methods from other fields that could be useful to AD research, conduct interviews with thought leaders, and prepare the background texts for discussion forums.
The Alzforum provides scientists with a forum to respond quickly and publicly to new findings. Readers can post commentaries on any Papers of the Week citation or news story via a "Vote/Submit Comment" text-entry box. Every week, Alzforum editors invite individual scientists to comment on news or journal articles. At 75% or better, the response rate is high, and scientists pay close attention to what is being discussed (especially about their own work!).
Over the years, many scientists have remarked on how effective the Alzforum has been in nurturing productive discussion of their ideas and findings. For example, in
2005 Vincent Marchesi, a cell biologist at Yale University, published an alternative interpretation of the amyloid hypothesis that might ordinarily have been quietly ignored by most AD researchers (Marchesi 2005). Instead, when Alzforum featured the paper, 17 scientists posted lengthy, detailed and productive commentaries. "The postings on the Alzforum site regarding my PNAS paper have been incredibly rewarding for me, and I suspect, for many of the others that participated," wrote Marchesi. "I don't see how so many candid exchanges could have taken place any other way." In the spring of 2006, the Alzforum invited public discussion on the difficult question of how presenilin mutations cause Alzheimer's disease a key issue not only in understanding pathogen-esis but also in drug development. Challenging a comfortable but simplistic dogma, the debate drew 24 thoughtful comments from highly regarded scientists that together laid out the subtleties of the current state of knowledge.
Data about key findings and reagents are curated into databases designed by the Alzforum. These data are published in disparate articles and formats, and scientists expend much time and effort to keep up-to-date. Because there is little incentive for individuals to carry out and share this task on behalf of the scientific community, the Alzforum considers the development and upkeep of open databases to be a high priority. Data sets on the Alzforum include the following:
- Familial AD mutations. All published mutations in the amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin-1 and presenilin-2, as well as tau mutations that cause frontotem-poral dementia with parkinsonism (FTDP-17). Individual mutations are displayed in a table along with clinical, pathology and biochemical data and primary publications. (http://www.alzforum.org/res/com/mut/default.asp)
- AlzGene. All published genetic association studies for late-onset AD, conceived and curated by Lars Bertram and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital. The database can be browsed by chromosome or searched by gene, polymorphism, protein, keyword or author. Each gene is summarized in a table listing details of all published studies, and a meta-analysis of the findings can be calculated with a single click. (http://www.alzforum.org/res/com/gen/alzgene/default.asp)
- Antibodies. More than 10,000 antibodies to proteins that are widely studied by AD researchers have been entered into this database. The database includes noncommercial and commercial antibodies, and displays the data in a table summarizing points of interest to researchers. (http://www.alzforum.org/res/com/ant/default.asp)
- Drugs in Clinical Trials. This database contains all drugs that we have confirmed to have entered Phase 2 clinical trials and beyond, including drugs that were discontinued following clinical trials. We are planning to re-design this database to include preclinical compounds and additional data of value to preclinical researchers. (http://www.alzforum.org/drg/drc/default.asp)
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