The Alzforum is freely accessible to the public, sowedonot have statistics on our entire user population. However, more than 3,400 individuals have registered as members, of whom more than 2,000 have also filled out the "researcher profile" form. Thus, we assume a lower limit of 2,000 on scientists and clinicians who use the site and estimate that around the same number are using the site without registering. This implies that 30-50% of the global community of AD researchers are regular visitors.
Feedback has been strongly positive. Many of our scientific advisory board members (all very busy researchers and clinicians) visit the website around one to three times per week. "[Alzforum] is the local newspaper for Alzheimer research," writes John Hardy, Director of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at the National Institutes of Aging. "I visit it one to two times a week just to see what's going on ... to check up on recent papers, .to see who's hiring people and so on. I read people's comments on papers, and I go from there to PubMed for anything I've missed. I think pretty much everyone in the field uses it in the same way, and I have often seen my informal reviews on the site cited."
Scientists mention a variety of reasons why they find the Alzforum valuable. One is that the Alzforum enriches published papers with news analysis and rapid peer commentary. "This is the major e-forum for AD ideas," observes Jeffrey Cummings, of the University of California in Los Angeles. "The discussion forums have shaped and sharpened my ideas. It's a great way to get a grasp of the literature and to follow emerging events in real time."
Many researchers value the breadth of the Alzforum's coverage, which is intended to communicate diverse developments with which no specialist could possibly keep up. "Instead of relying only on published papers and meetings, you provide rapid insights into new developments and introduce us to areas that are related to our work but yet we fail to notice were it not for you," writes Gunnar Gouras of Weill Medical College of Cornell University. The databases also are frequently mentioned as resources that help scientists stay abreast of advances in fields outside their own.
Another important aspect of Alzforum is its community-building function. Through commentaries and live discussion forums, the website provides a neutral ground for scientists to get comfortable with one another. Scientists are directly involved in creating resources on Alzforum, volunteering significant time to report on meetings, propose and lead discussions, consult on databases and offer unvarnished feedback. To all of them, we are deeply indebted.
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