Method-centered digital communities on for fast-paced scientific innovation

Lori Kindler, Alexei Stoliartchouk, Leonid Teytelman, Bonnie L Hurwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Internet has enabled online social interaction for scientists that previously happened only in physical meetings and conferences. Yet despite these innovations in communication, dissemination of methods is often relegated to the slow process of academic publishing. Further, these methods remain static, with subsequent advances published elsewhere and unlinked. For communities undergoing fast-paced innovation, researchers need new capabilities to share, obtain feedback, and publish methods at the forefront of scientific development. For example, a renaissance in virology is now underway given the new metagenomic methods to sequence viral DNA directly from an environment. Metagenomics makes it possible to "see" natural viral communities that could not be previously studied through culturing methods. Yet, the knowledge of specialized techniques for the production and analysis of viral metagenomes remains in a subset of labs.This problem is common to any community using and developing emerging technologies and techniques. We developed new capabilities to create virtual communities in, an open access platform, for disseminating protocols and knowledge at the forefront of scientific development. To demonstrate these capabilities, we present a virology community forum called VERVENet. These new features allow virology researchers to share protocols and their annotations and optimizations, connect with the broader virtual community to share knowledge, job postings, conference announcements through a common online forum, and discover the current literature through personalized recommendations to promote discussion of cutting edge research. Virtual communities in enhance a researcher's ability to: discuss and share protocols, connect with fellow community members, and learn about new and innovative research in the field.The web-based software for developing virtual communities is free to use on Data are available through public APIs at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2271
StatePublished - 2016


  • Bacteriophage
  • Bioinformatics
  • Forum
  • Metagenomics
  • Phage
  • Protocols
  • Virtual community
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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