Monday, June 7, 2010

Benchfly Helps Me Learn and LOL

Today I discovered Benchfly, a Web 2.0 science hub centered around instructional videos for scientists both in and out of the lab. Current protocols range from time-saving tips for minipreps (that eppi rack trick was news to me) to how to make an Old-Fashioned (I bet Dr. Becca will approve). The good folks at Benchfly also run a blog and, of course, Facebook and Twitter pages, so you can follow their musings about life as a lab rat.

But I have to say, what really won me over was how funny some of the videos are. This one, for example, speaks profoundly to anyone who's ever done immunofluorescent staining:

And this one really resonated with me, because four-letter words and violence are the best way to deal with equipment failure:

Benchfly seems to overlap a bit with the Journal of Visualized Experiments in the sense that both focus on video protocols. But, JoVE seems to be working under an older model of protocol sharing. According to my PI, who has been approached by JoVE in the past due to the "highly visual" nature of our research, JoVE can send a video crew to your lab to film experiments and help with all of the production work. The resulting videos aren't free, however -- you need a JoVE subscription to view most of their protocols. I don't know how many people/institutions do pay for a subscription, but I know Emory's library did not subscribe, last time I checked.

Benchfly, on the other hand, is crowd-sourced and free. Many of the video protocols are made by their staff, but other users are able to submit them as well. Not sure if they plan to implement a pay subscription later, but I hope not. I enjoy the humorous and informal nature of these video protocols. To me, the difference between JoVE and Benchfly feels like the difference between reading the Materials and Methods section of a journal article versus reading someone's lab notebook, complete with hand-written smiley faces and "WTF?!" notes.