academic-research2Back in the day if you need to cite information for research papers, you HAVE TO go to several libraries and book stores, scan through hundreds of books, journals, and articles, only to find out that 70% of them don’t have the information that you need.  Or worse, you have to pay for over $30 for journal articles and more for subscriptions online for information that is not readily accessible to the public.  Research takes so much time, money, and hard work.  For people who do this as a profession, it’s a bit understandable.  Grants and their personal funds may be sufficient to pay for the information they need.  Can you imagine how difficult it is for an undergrad looking for citations for his research paper?  Most of the college students already have a hard enough time getting through paying for their schooling, rent, and daily needs.  Certainly paying $30 and above for articles that they may or may not need for their research becomes a big burden.

Today, however, the human race has shown how technology can change and ease some of the burdens of research; particularly, searching for correct related literature.  As you see, access to information was not only difficult but also costly.  However, with the emergence of the Internet and a little ingenuity from individuals who believe in free information, this is not entirely true anymore.

The Technology

Open-access Journals

Publishing manuscripts was very expensive. If a researcher wanted his or her manuscript published, he or she would need to send it out to certain publishing journals that would review, process, and revise the paper, and then handle the typesetting, printing, and publishing of the work.  For this reason, acquiring the research papers, whether for personal collection of information, for public libraries, or for citations for other research papers, became very taxing and very expensive.  This is why the people who believe in free information created open-access journals.  Open-access journals are basically scholarly journals that are freely available to readers and researchers online.  The availability of free, reliable, and immediate research articles online (with full reuse rights) is very important to our tech-savvy researchers of today.

Collaboration through VoIP

This might seem to be a no-brainer for most people.  However, I’d like to stress how this kind of technology was not prevalent several decades ago.  As a wife of a part-time teacher and full-time researcher, I saw how difficult collaboration was in the earlier years.  My husband’s collaborators in several of his research papers came from Japan, Germany, and France.  In the previous years, all exchanges were done through email.  Though this is still a practice today, there are several barriers in communication (like language) which would lengthen the process of the research because of misunderstandings.  Thankfully, the advent of free VoIP providers like Skype and Viber (for personal use of independent researchers) and hosted VoIP providers like RingCentral (for small, medium, and large businesses who fund researchers) made communication much easier and more effective.  VoIP as a medium for communicating ideas creates not only a more casual environment compared to formal emails, but also an opportunity for instant feedback due to verbal communication.  This type of communication, partnered with emailing of the actual paper, lessens the chances of confusion, aggravation, and misunderstanding with collaborators.

The Proof

We always hear success stories of our ingenious youth making a difference in the world.  The most recent one being Jack Andraka the 2012 Intel ISEF winner of the Gordon Moore Award.  This remarkable 15 year old developed a sensor for early detection of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer.  He decided to pursue this project after the loss of a close family friend to pancreatic cancer.  From then on, he went on a mission to find out as much about it and what he can do to help.  He read over 500 online journal articles (mostly from the open-access journal PLoS) to get as much information as possible on the disease.  He found out that pancreatic cancer is a non-symptomatic disease which is very difficult to diagnose and that the “gold standard” of pancreatic cancer detection today is six years outdated, very pricey, and highly inaccurate.  Needless to say, his journey towards the discovery of his preventive solution was, although successful, not without obstacles.  After 199 rejections from several university professors to get a lab space for his project and a ton of failure, he was finally allowed a lab space by one professor and ended up with a sensor which can detect 100% of all pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer which takes only ¢3 to produce and 5 minutes to run.

The point of it all is that with the Internet, anything is possible.  It is continuously growing as a hub for important and free information.  This opens a lot of possibilities for so many brilliant people in the world to collaborate, share ideas, and revolutionize the way mankind lives life.  In the words of Jack Andraka “So ‘redefining relevance’ to me, is looking for new ways to use the Internet… Instead, you can be changing the world with the Internet; you could help detect pancreatic cancer. So if I could detect pancreatic cancer, just imagine what you could do.”