MS Research Roundup: March 31, 2014
Tracking Research in Social Media; Faster Cures Through Online Collaboration; The MS Athletic Edge
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Every 7 seconds, someone blogs, tweets, chats, or otherwise publicly links to a research paper online. That figure comes from a London-based company called Altmetric, which tracks what people are saying and serves it up in a rainbow donut. The icon’s blue, yellow, red, and pink bands offer a quick visual code for the relative social media activity. Most Altmetric clients are publishers, which provide the service for their authors and readers. (For example, see metrics for the Nature commentary and two studies here and here suggesting that salt may exacerbate autoimmune disease.) Altmetric has partnered with the Cochrane Library, putting a badge on every systematic review. Anyone can access the metrics on papers from other publishers with a free bookmarklet for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers. A paper’s DOI number is the central unit being tracked, except for news stories, in which the text is mined. The activity reveals impacts not captured in citation counts and other traditional metrics, such as less formal discussion of papers by clinicians, Altmetric spokesperson Jean Liu told MSDF. A column on altmetrics in Serials Review, a journal for librarians and others, lists other common metrics programs: Plum Analytics, CitedIn, ImpactStory, PLoS Impact Explorer, and PaperCritic. (Lab Times)
The Fast Track in Neuroscience
Web-based communities in neuroscience are speeding the search for new and better treatments by fostering communication across institutional and specialty boundaries. The pioneer in this area was the newly redesigned Alzforum, established 18 years ago to understand and cure Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Building on that model, other sites have followed: Schizophrenia Research Forum, Pain Research Forum (PRF) for chronic pain, and yours truly MS Discovery Forum, for multiple sclerosis and related disorders. All are based in the Boston area, with editors and writers scattered across the country and a global community including bench scientists and clinical researchers. A new paper in the March 11, 2014, Frontiers in Neuroinformatics examines the success factors, lessons learned, and ongoing challenges of using one exemplar community, PRF, as a driving force to develop tools for online collaboration in neuroscience. Launched 3 years ago, PRF now has 1300 registered members with permission to submit content. Professional writers and editors with neurology expertise report on research news, organize a webinar series, host discussions and journal clubs, provide a curated weekly updated listing of relevant papers, post jobs, and diligently work to expand and strengthen the dynamic Web-based global scientific community. The same tools can be applied to other areas and uses, note the authors, who lead the editorial and software development teams. (Frontiers in Neuroinformatics)
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Studies show that exercise can improve function and reduce fatigue in MS, and researchers want to strengthen future studies with a new common core of outcomes measures. But science isn’t anywhere close to explaining how some athletes and adventurers with MS outperform most of humanity. Kayla Montgomery, 18, was diagnosed with MS 3 years ago and has become one of the fastest young U.S. distance runners. She collapses after every race and has to be carried away from the finish line because of the numbness in her legs. She may have a mental edge from facing an incurable, slowly debilitating disease, speculated her neurologist, Lucie Lauve, M.D., to the New York Times. Other people with MS also set physical goals that are challenging by any measure, including an Australian man who is training to climb Mount Everest with intense gym workouts—on the days when he can struggle out of bed. Maybe he’ll run into Wendy Booker, who has made two attempts to bag that summit, to reach her goal of being the first person with MS to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents, after being the first person with MS to reach both the North and South poles. Or not—it looks like she’s busy preparing to mush in the Iditarod next year. And somehow the Massachusetts resident also found time to write a book, New Altitude. (New York Times, Multiple Sclerosis International Federation)
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