New resource will help biomedical researchers navigate an expanding web of disciplines

The Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences writes about what inspired the project

Update: The Reference Module in BioMedical Sciences is now available.[divider]

 Reference Modules on ScienceDirectElsevier's Reference Modules on ScienceDirect combine thousands of related reference-work articles into a single source of information that is continuously updated by experts. They provide foundational content that has yet to be updated in print, giving researchers access to updated reference content as science progresses.

The current modules are Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering and Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences.

By the end of the year, the Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences will be available.

Here, the Editor-in-Chief of this new Reference Module, Dr. Michael J. Caplan, writes about what inspired it, and how it will help researchers in his field.

Dr. Caplan is the CNH Long Professor and Chair in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Physiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. His research focuses on epithelial biology and diseases of renal epithelia. His full bio is at the end of this story.

[divider]In biomedical science, we tend to be trained in very narrow disciplines, becoming experts in progressively specialized areas. However, the field is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary – an interwoven web of different disciplinary threads that connect a wide array of fields. This breadth requires that we have access to information in disciplines that are far outside our area of expertise.

To pursue a project or scientific question, you need to be able to follow it where it leads you, and that isn't always down the narrow path of the discipline you're most highly trained in. Therefore, it's necessary to have access to information outside our discipline — content that allows us to understand the relationship between different fields, connect concepts with those in our own area, and understand how they interact and how we can exploit them.

Michael J. Caplan, PhD, MD, is Editor-in-Chief of the upcoming Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences.The problem is, you don't know what's there until you know what's there. Until you know a discipline, it's very hard to know what the type of information you might need. What's required is a structure that is sufficiently flexible, interwoven and comprehensive so that someone who has expertise in one area might be able to uncover a completely new area that would be interesting and relevant for them.

I view it as turning over stones and looking at what's underneath them. Unless you know which stone to turn over, you're not going to know that what's crawling underneath that stone is of interest to you.

In that way, the architecture of Reference Modules is a way of organizing information so that a researcher in one field can know which are the right stones to turn over — and understand how those stones are placed with respect to one another. There are large compendia of lots of different kinds of biomedical information, but if you are a cell biologist, you might not know what lives under the genetics rock. If you're a pathologist, you might not know what lives under the epidemiology rock.

That's where the traditional encyclopedia-like reference works fall short – and why I've become involved in developing this Reference Module.

There are three things that make this project exciting, and provide it with unique advantages.

One is the quality of the Editorial Board. They are leaders and experts in their field, and they have tremendous experience in pulling together the information that is really required to characterize and define a field.

As an extension of that, the information in this biomedicine module is going to be curated so that it's a living, breathing entity that's going to be continually reviewed and updated. The quality and accuracy of the information will be maintained by the superb curatorial team.

Finally, the information will be structured in a hierarchy that will allow it to be searched vertically and laterally. In that way, the interconnections between related concepts from different disciplines can be visualized and highlighted.

I view source material being the critical framework, the foundation on which this whole project is being built. But the architecture of this project – the way it will allow researchers to leap from rock to rock and know which ones they want to turn over – will be the huge advantage, one that will hopefully make the sum of those parts much greater than the whole.


Watch a video with the Editor-in-Chief


Watch a video with the Subject Editors


Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences

Reference Module in Biomedical SciencesThe Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences will help researchers access the increasingly interdisciplinary content they require. Subjects include cell biology, developmental biology, endocrinology, epidemiology and public health, genetics, human nutrition, immunobiology, medical biotechnology, medical microbiology, neurobiology, pathobiology of human diseases, pharmacology, physiology, toxicology and virology.

It contains:

  • Content from 15 of Elsevier's peer-reviewed reference works and two related multi-contributor books
  • More than 4,700 articles that are continuously reviewed, updated as needed and then time stamped by an expert editorial board
  • Intuitive subject hierarchies designed by each module's editorial board that make the articles easy to navigate and find essential information
  • Linking to relevant journal articles and book chapters on ScienceDirect for additional information

The module is on ScienceDirect, Elsevier's full-text scientific database with journal articles and book chapters from nearly 2,200 peer-reviewed journals, almost 900 serials and more than 25,000 book titles.[divider]

Related story

Reference modules on Elsevier Connect


FreePint report on Reference Modules

FreePint, a respected reviewer of information resources, recently took an in-depth look at the first two Reference Modules in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering and Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Here's what they had to say:

Reference Modules are excellent sources of difficult-to-find, reliable information which not only provide researchers with detailed subject knowledge, but allow them to monitor subject development and related disciplines using hierarchy.

Read the full review and download the report.


Elsevier Connect Contributor

Dr. Michael J. Caplan is the CNH Long Professor and Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and Professor of Cell Biology at the Yale University School of Medicine. He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1980, and his MD and PhD degrees from Yale University in 1987, working in the laboratories of Drs. JD Jamieson and GE Palade. He joined Yale's Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology as a faculty member in 1988.

Dr. Caplan's scientific work focuses on understanding the ways in which kidney cells generate and maintain their unique structures. His laboratory also studies Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease, a prevalent and serious genetic disorder and a major cause of kidney failure. The Caplan laboratory is working to understand the mechanisms responsible for this condition and to identify targets for new therapies.

Dr. Caplan has received fellowships from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation for Science and Engineering and a National Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. He has received the Young Investigator Awards from the American Physiological Society and the American Society of Nephrologists, and has delivered the American Physiological Society's Carl W. Gottschalk Distinguished Lectureship. He has been elected to membership in the American Association of Physicians. He has also received Yale University School of Medicine's Bohmfalk Prize for teaching and was selected as the first recipient of Yale University's Award for Postdoctoral Mentorship.

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