Linking Researchers – Revolutionizing Aging Research with Tools and Collaboration
Sharing knowledge and collaborating with others are two major forces of progress that have allowed humanity to create astounding achievements. They are the secret ingredients that have granted us the power to control fire, develop agriculture, and increase human lifespans.
We aim to create a system that utilizes these forces to accelerate the research against aging. Whether you are a researcher
or not, if you want to to see progress against aging, the following is for you.
How to Accelerate Research?
When I started research 12 years ago, articles were on paper or from books borrowed at the library in whatever language, and contacting researchers was done through letters sent by mail – needless to say the pace of research was much slower then. The Internet and the area of computerized experimental data is changing everything. PubMed is the new bible and collaborations *can* go at the speed of emails. *Can*, because there is still much that can be done to go even faster:
1. The PubMed and email revolution has clearly not reached its potential:
- Research labs generally remain local and closed places that do not interact much with other ones, even if it were beneficial for both. In many cases this a matter of distance and not knowing each other, which some summarize as follows: “science improves at the rate of congresses“.
- Emails tend to flow from all over the place, without an IT structure that accompanies research projects.
2. Citizen science is a burgeoning new revolution: Imagine what could happen if a large part of the longevity alliance (currently about 5.000 members) was attending lab meetings and helping in one way or another… For example statistics, experiment design, grant or paper writing, or basic administration (another break for research…)
3. Computer intelligence is another revolution that has great potential to help in research.
4. A solid research community - this is the key. Traditionally aging research has grown hidden in the field of various diseases; but aging is the root of most chronic diseases today and needs to be treated accordingly. It deserves a strong, visible, collaborative community.
Existing Bricks for a Revolution in Longevity Research
Luckily we are not the first ones to try to optimise and systematize research, in biogerontology in particular: pioneers have created important bricks for the grand edifice.
Here are some examples:
- Pubmed, google, and journals to search for information.
- Emails, forums and mailing lists (LongeCity, GRG, SENS, Facebook groups, Google groups, Yahoo groups), and videochat tools (Skype, Google Hangouts, Second Life) to exchange ideas and collaborate online.
- Impressive resources on aging at senescence.info that include HAGR, the DAA, a who’s who and results of lifespan interventions.
- The impressive International Aging Portfolio, that maps funding ressources of biogerontology projects, and more…
- The European Marketplace for Innovation on Aging (and funds).
- Denigma, a project to map research on ageing (structure and content) and derive intelligent results – a kind of PubMed++ platform.
- Mendeley, a tool to collaborate in research, that contains reference management and collaborative paper annotation.
- Sage Crossroads, an archived online portal and who’s who in biogerontology.
- The great LongeCity Podcasts by Justin Loew.
- Some common projects of various organisations, such as the project to help Dr Coles, a world leader in aging research who has cancer, or Longevity 24/7 Skype channel (Worldwide Continuous Longevity Meetings with frequent Worldwide Collaborative Skype Presentations), and many others.
- + many more
=> We have the ingredients and now we need to create a recipe to be adopted by aging research
This was clearly highlighted at the Eurosymposium on Healthy Ageing (EHA2012, organised by Heales in Brussels, and where various members of the International Longevity Alliance met). The need for a centralized place for collaboration against aging was strongly raised and a few days later emails were springing on the matter, with names like “Collaborative Resource for Gerontology” (by Georg Fullen, who presented Denigma at EHA2012) or “inSilicoSENS” (by Aubrey de Grey, where SENS = Strategies to Engineer Negligible Senescence). And below is… the recipe we started.
Building the Future Together: Linking Researchers
The objective is now clear: we want a strong longevity research community that collaborates around research projects, using the support of an intelligent tool. At the Longevity Alliance we have started to make such a recipe based on two ingredients:
A prototype of this system is currently being built.
It’s important to note that as this is only a prototype at this stage, it won’t be perfect right from the start and we will need your help to shape and improve it further. Also, the final structure, with many bricks fitting together, will have to be discussed and analysed in fine detail. But already…
…to give you a flavor of what’s going to happen:
- Are you looking for people to help you in research – researchers or other helpers with a wide variety of skills?
=> Communicate about it on the Longevity 24/7 channel.
- Have you ever wanted to go to the weekly lab meetings of a lab you admire?
=> Each biogerontology lab listed on Denigma will have a dedicated videochat that they can activate – for all or only a selected group of people.
- Have you ever wanted to know more about a research project?
=> Research projects will have lists of associated documents, links, and collaborators.
- Do you want to see who does what in biogerontology?
This is a beginning
- Do you want to see what lifespan interventions extended or shortened the lifespan of animals?
This is a beginning
- And much more…
Many more options and opportunities will be made possible by combining the various bricks with one another. In fact, how fast and how well this distributed aging research center will grow essentially depends on two things; time and volunteers.
You can help!
Currently there is room for many people, so depending on your skills, contacts, and wishes, you can:
- Ask biogerontologists you know to join the Worldwide Continuous Longevity Skype Meeting (send a Skype message to edebonneuil if you are new to it or join here).
- Participate in the development (many types) and design (e.g. graphics, UI, UX ) of the system.
- Help as a tester and user, to make the product more user friendly.
- Spread this message – we truly appreciate it!
Edouard Debonneuil (Heales, International Longevity Alliance)
It has been a pleasure to coordinate this project so far. This is by and large a team effort and I want to express my enormous gratitude to the many people involved:
An immense applause to Daniel Wuttke from Germany, who initiated the Denigma developments. This includes the forthcoming work of Aaron M Brown from the USA (who leads the simplified Denigma developing environment), Vadim Bartko from Ukraine (who provides Denigma with text mining, natural language processing and artificial intelligence), and the extensive help of Anton Kulaga from Ukraine (who drives numerous projects, in particular “Semantic web technologies for aging research with the use of hypergraphs”).
Also great applause to Daria Khaltourina from Russia for her input on linking experts and organizations on Denigma, Dmitry Borisoglebsky from Latvia, for providing his analytic and semantic web expertise, Avinash Kumar Singh from India, who leads the development of the videochat, and to Martin O’ Dea from Ireland for his investigations of nice potential communication places such as Teleplace or Second Life. A big thank you also to Dmitri Shytikov and Iryna Pishel’s lab who have been the first ones to have given a “Worldwide Collaborative Longevity Skype Presentation” (presentation here; slides here).
A great thanks to everyone who stepped in and added great inputs, in particular Leo Silvennoinen from Finland, and Ilia Stambler from Israel. And, of course, an immense thanks to the bricks makers and advice sharers, in particular Alex Zhavoronkov and Aubrey de Grey from many places, Joao Pedro de Magalhaes from the UK and Georg Fullen from Germany. Many thanks to HEALES for having accelerated the movement at EHA2012, many thanks to… need to stop somewhere…