Researchers from diverse subspecialties compose the field of aging, These human geneticists, molecular geneticists, evolutionary biologists, physiologists, neurobiolo-gists, demographers, and cell, structural, and molecular biologists don't necessarily encounter one another while carrying out their professional activities: No single meeting brings everyone together, they don't all read one another's primary journals, nor does any journal publish papers from every discipline. Furthermore, research in the area is booming, posing a challenge to scientists struggling to keep up with relevant research even in their own corners of the field. In 2000, editors at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) reasoned that a virtual community might catalyze interactions and creative thinking by bringing together researchers from many disciplines to exchange information and discuss ideas.
To that end, AAAS launched the Science of Aging Knowledge Environment in October 2001. The site aims to keep researchers in the field abreast of the latest scientific developments and to provide an online meeting place for the community. In particular, it strives to render information and commentary accessible to investigators with a broad range of backgrounds.
SAGE KE employs several strategies to inform scientists about research advances that have been published in other journals or presented at meetings. It posts critical summaries of the latest developments, written by both science journalists and investigators. The pieces by professional writers (News Focus) are based on interview material as well as literature research, and represent multiple viewpoints; their language and level of explanation assume scientific proficiency—but not that a reader is well informed about the particular matter at hand. Many of these stories attempt to entertain as well as educate (see Figure 8.1).
The articles by scientists (Perspectives) afford detailed commentary by experts. SAGE KE's editors attend meetings and maintain ongoing contact with researchers and journals, so news stories and Perspectives cover the latest findings as soon as they are publicly released. Editors also list additional articles of interest in each weekly issue. As a result, the site introduces newcomers to relevant topics in a timely fashion, and provides caveats and expert opinions to fully educate the reader as quickly as possible. Visitors can comment on the articles, a feature
Handbook of Models for Human Aging
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that provides an opportunity to extend the discussions further.
In addition to keeping readers informed about new discoveries in the field, some sites offer overview articles that provide in-depth information about key topics. The pieces differ in their styles and accessibility. SAGE KE's reviews are written by scientists and assume a fairly sophisticated audience. They cover diverse subjects, including oxidative mutagenesis and mismatch repair; a critical look at microarray analysis; senescence in plants; and ubiquitin, proteasomes, and brain aging. These articles provide a comprehensive look at research in particular areas. Other types of overviews present information in a less dense form. For example, SAGE KE's feature stories (News Synthesis) tie together multiple findings and place them in a broad context. Like the other journalist-written content, they rely on interview material and are informed by multiple opinions and viewpoints. Newcomers to the field should find SAGE KE's Hot Topic Orientations particularly worthwhile. In these pieces, writers introduce central and often controversial topics; the current collection includes subjects such as oxidative damage, the relation between cell and organismal aging, pain, the immune system, and Alzheimer's disease. Finally physicians have produced a series of case studies aimed at the basic researcher. These articles describe aspects of age-related diseases (mostly neuro-degenerative ones so far) from the clinician's and pathol-ogist's point of view. They put a human face on these illnesses for people whose professional home is the lab bench.
Other sites focus on single aspects of aging-related research. For example, Alzheimer Research Forum (Alzforum) targets Alzheimer's disease. It posts summaries of new findings, which include interview material, and houses a collection of seminars, online journal club discussions, recorded talks, and other presentations that describe a variety of hypotheses about the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Alzforum material assumes proficiency with the terminology of molecular biology.
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