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Roll with the changes
 
Nathan Blow, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, BioTechniques
BioTechniques, Vol. 56, No. 4, April 2014, p. 161
Full Text (PDF)

As some of you might have read in the March issue, next month we are launching an updated and redesigned version of BioTechniques. Our redesign has been months in the making, and we are very proud of the way that it has come together. But as with any major change, there were hard decisions that had to be made. So, after this month, we will be saying goodbye to two of our regular news features— the “Scientist Profile” and the “Troubleshooting Forum.” Although these articles have graced the pages of BioTechniques for a decade, it is time to make some changes in our format as we begin a new era.

The “Scientist Profile” has been in print for nearly 11 years now. In that time, profiles of more than 100 leaders and visionaries in the scientific community have been published in BioTechniques. From the outset, the idea behind the profile was a simple one: Provide a window into the lives of established scientists from around the globe so that others can learn more about how and why they do what they do. Over the years, different people have taken a swing at writing our profiles, and the style of the article has changed too. In the beginning, Lynn Lederman provided narratives on researchers working in various fields. Lynn interviewed a wide range of people, providing glimpses into both the personal histories and important discoveries of some amazing scientists. In 2009, associate editor Kristie Nybo picked up the torch, and she has been writing our profiles ever since. Kristie's interviews have asked probing questions, allowing these wonderful men and women to explain, in their own words, what led to a successful life in science.

For me, the profile has always been an interesting and illuminating read. Getting a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse into the scientific process encouraged me when I was a researcher and has continued to enthrall me through the years. And what more can you ask from any column? Informational and entertaining, we suspect the profile has been an inspiration for many researchers throughout the years.

The “Troubleshooting Forum” column is somewhat younger than the “Scientist Profile,” but has traditionally ranked highly in our reader surveys. The genesis of this column came when the editors realized there were wonderfully informative threads of questions and answers on our molecular biology forum pages (http://molecularbiology.forums.biotechniques.com/) that deserved to be seen by an even wider audience. When someone in a lab has a perplexing question or a challenging experiment and needs help, the community is able to provide valuable explanations and suggestions. And if one person is asking a question, there are very likely many others out there with the same problem. Both the questions and the answers often provide unique insights and possible solutions for scientists to explore.

Over the years, the “Troubleshooting Forum” has addressed questions in fields ranging from genomics to genetics and proteomics to biophysics. No topic has been left out. Kristie Nybo has also been compiling this column from forum posts, but the information and the direction of each article truly comes from you, the readers. This is your column—edited by the staff but written by the BioTechniques audience. And this is what made “Troubleshooting Forum” so unique—it was a “crowd-sourced” feature column before crowd-sourced efforts became popular.

In the end, we are not completely saying goodbye to either of these columns—they will appear again later, albeit in a slightly different form online. One realization we came to during the redesign effort was that these two print columns should be online to take advantage of their potential. Imagine a profile with the addition of a podcast, an image gallery, or links to a collection of important articles. How much more insight could be gained by taking advantage of the additional possibilities offered through the web? And when it comes to the “Troubleshooting Forum,” providing links on the web page to other topics or methods related to the question at hand could spur both discussion and advances for our readers. These articles should be online.

I do want to thank everyone who has contributed to these articles in print over the past decade. From the writers and the editors who worked on the main text, to the scientists who so generously gave of their time for an interview or two, to the community of methods developers and tinkerers who answered the questions posed in our molecular biology forums—everyone had a little hand in making these features successful, something I hope will continue as we move into the next era at BioTechniques.