Nanotech and Proteomics Fuel Expanded Communication
As the recent special issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin on communication highlighted, NCI and the cancer community have embraced technology as a means of facilitating communication among and between the cancer community and the public.
The complexity and pace of research today demand that researchers communicate more often and more effectively, and have access to shared resources that promote collaboration. Although many researchers in certain fields discuss their work when the opportunities arise, we can no longer solely rely on research conferences as a means of forging relationships, and learning about new science and new opportunities. This is especially true if we are to fully realize the inherent advantages of team science and inter- and cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Proteomics and nanotechnology, by their very nature, weave together a disparate array of scientific fields, from molecular biology to engineering to bioinformatics. Collaboration and interactive communication are absolute musts for the researchers involved in these fields, but the infrastructure to facilitate this interaction has been lacking.
NCI is working on a variety of levels to change that. The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer provides an excellent example. To take advantage of the promise offered by the unique properties of nano-scale devices, the traditional life sciences community must collaborate with scientists from the disciplines of mathematics, engineering, materials sciences, and physics. Thus, from the outset, this initiative has made real-time communication and collaboration an integral part of its planning, strategy, and implementation.
This commitment is embodied by the http://nano.cancer.gov Web site, which offers a broad collection of resources, including updates on new research findings, monthly articles on important trends, reference materials such as a bibliography and glossary, and webcasts and archived presentations of cancer-related nanotechnology conferences. The Web site aims to eliminate the silos of language and culture that have often separated different scientific disciplines so that they can bring their skills and knowledge to bear quickly and productively.
I'm particularly excited about the Nanotechnology Teaming component of the Web site, http://nano.cancer.gov/resource_center/teaming_site.asp. This portal offers investigators a venue to explore collaborative opportunities with investigators from other disciplines, academia, and the private sector.
The cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) also will be an important conduit for scientific exchange and for advancing team science across a broad spectrum of research. It will play a central role in the recently approved Clinical Proteomic Technologies Initiative. In effect, caBIG will provide a centralized communication network that allows the research teams to optimize data sharing and, at the same time, monitor the progress of external clinical proteomics programs.
Improved communication among researchers will go a long way toward maintaining and quickening the pace and effectiveness of the discovery-development-delivery continuum. Proteomics and nanotechnology are by no means the only research areas for which this holds true. But they are two areas that are driving the team science revolution, and I have every expectation that they will be at the heart of advances that will save many, many lives.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach