Regular readers will know that in many ways, the Musings is my ‘second’ project for science communication with Ask A Biologist being my first (and I think) best effort to bring science to the public. For the half dozen of you who have missed it,this is a site where people can leave their biology based questions and a team of researchers from all over the world will pitch in and try to answer. There’s no middle man, no filter of journalists, precis, reviews or anything else, you ask us, we answer.
And really answer in some cases, discussions of detailed or intricate questions have run to days or weeks over dozens of posts. We seem to operate a less formal peer review with people correcting each others’ errors, discussing points of taxonomy and definitions, philosophy of science and more. It’s a great introduction to the workings of academia and all the while bringing first hand information and knowledge to those who want it.
I really set the site up as it was the kind of thing I wanted as a child. I could read my books and watch TV shows but there would always be unanswered questions that I wanted answers for and had no way of finding. My parents, teachers and books (despite their best efforts) couldn’t provide them and I was left frustrated. Now the internet solves that problem, but with such a multitude of sources it’s hard to know who to trust. One quick glance at Yahoo questions should be enough to put anyone off ever putting something up there, but you might not realise this. Science by popularity is not a good idea. So enter AAB.
However, the site is run on the goodwill of the researchers giving up their time to help out and inevitably, despite some start-up money from PalAss, funds were tight. That is behind us now, thanks to a series of new grants and AAB is set for a relaunch with numerous new features, it’s more user friendly, with better archives, new images, new sections and more. While we have answered nearly 2500 questions and had over half a million readers in the last few of years, we are only as good as the people who use us. In short, if we don’t get many questions, we can’t answer them.
Time then, to spread the word. We are having our official re-launch on the 19th of April. If you like science and like learning about science then this should be a site for you, to read, to ask questions, to help out. Whether you are an academic biologist, a student, a teacher, an interested amateur or a 5 year old who loves worms, then we can help (or you can help us). Please then, on the 19th spread the word. E-mail your friends and colleagues, put a post on your Blog, Twitter, FaceBook or whatever, let your local school know or whoever.
We want to help and we can help, so let us help.
And here’s some pretty banners and logos to help you: