Journal of Visualized Experiments, a Video-journal for biological research

From Moshe Pritsker:

Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE),, FREE journal publishing video-protocols

JoVE is a newly founded online research journal that publishes video-articles on biological experiments (video-protocols). Video-articles include step-by-step instructions on experiments, and short discussions by experts describing possible technical problems and modifications.

JoVE invites article submissions in all areas of biology. Its editorial board includes a number of distinguished scientists, leading experts in their fields. JoVE employs the OPEN-SOURCE model: submission is free, and all video-articles published are freely available online.

A video-based approach is employed to allow for explicit demonstration on “how experiments are really done”, which remains unclear or misinterpreted from traditional publications in print. This is to increase reproducibility and decrease the traditionally high failure rate of biological studies. This approach can be especially important for scientific fields where experimental procedures are highly sensitive and difficult for standardization, e.g. neuroscience or stem cell biology. The JoVE’s approach is also expected to facilitate adoption of new technologies, e.g. genomics and proteomics, and thus lead to significant savings in time in resources in the academic and industrial research.

Sample article on a behavior assay in mouse model:

Philosophy and motivation:

Mastery of scientific techniques has undeniably become a craft in itself. Looking at a particular drawing, a portrait, most people can easily identify gender, age, facial features of a person described. They know the concept and might even know that one needs specific tools, brush and paints, to draw a picture. However, only very few people will be capable of drawing the same picture since it requires years of training and such qualities as talent, which are difficult to predict or measure. A similar situation exists in biological research where the mastery in experimental techniques is not sufficient but necessary for advancement.

Generally speaking, each field has its concept and methods. Concepts are generally accepted ideas that direct field’s practices. DNA replication, gene code, transcription, cell cycle, cell differentiation are examples of biological concepts. Methods comprise tools and procedures. Examples of methods in biology include DNA purification, polymerase chain reaction, isolation and propagation of cell cultures and cell transplantation. Current biological concepts are simple to explain and understand. On the other hand, learning methods is very time-consuming, and performance levels achieved are often difficult to predict. Learning and applying new techniques at the expert’s level is often a hard and tedious journey.

Interestingly, the described situation persists despite the fact that descriptions of techniques and procedures ( “protocols” ) are available in the scientific literature, which is mostly accessed through PubMed. Theoretically, these protocols should be written in a clear instructive manner and, therefore, understood by every researcher. However, in biological experiments, there are multiple unforeseen variables in details such as specific reagents, equipment, specimens, previous scientist’s experience, reader’s interpretation and others, which cannot be foreseen by writers of protocols. Thus, in reality, reading and even understanding protocols does not convert one into an expert. Similarly, reading a manual on drawing techniques does not make one a painter. However, biology is not an art. It is a science, and its experimental procedures, although complex, consist of rationally determined sets of basic operations that are known to every practitioner.

Solution to the problem

Video-based visualization of biological techniques and procedures can provide a solution to the problem described. For example, the nature of equipment and biological samples employed becomes more obvious in visualized demonstrations. Visual instructions are less prone to misinterpretations on “how to do the experiment”, as compared to written protocols. In addition, visualization significantly reduce the language barrier, which is especially important for non-native English speakers, abroad and in US where they comprise more than 50% of staff in many academic and industry laboratories.

Open-source model

The JoVE database should be built with the contribution of the entire scientific community using a “open source” model, which is prevalent in the sharing of information such as in Linux, Wikipedia, etc. Due to the large number and tremendous diversity of biological research techniques, the production of these video-based instructions for all these techniques will require the effort and contribution of the entire scientific community.

Similarly, every scientist planning on a biological experiment will be able to access the database, find videos relevant to their work and use them as protocols. High effectiveness of visualized instructions will decrease failure rates for biological experiments, and, thus, facilitate significant savings in time and reagents’ cost. Thus, we can expect that JoVE will become an essential tool for every biological researcher, as Google became an integral part of every Internet user’s life.


Comments are closed.