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 October 9, 2003 [posted]
 Molecular Biology Information Resources: Getting Your Footing and Keeping Up with the Pack

drop cap letter for m olecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics are burgeoning fields. The amount of information they are generating is exciting and promising on one hand and overwhelming on the other.

As libraries become increasingly involved in assisting users with these resources, library staff are faced with the challenge of learning the background behind these new fields of science, understanding the systems used to store and retrieve data, and keeping up with the changes that are happening in the number and nature of the information resources.

The table below summarizes a subset of resources available on the Web site of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) that can be used to address these challenges. While the list below is not exhaustive, it provides a springboard from which to get started.

Where to get basic/introductory information on molecular biology, genetics, and NCBI resources
Science Primer Provides introductory material on various science topics and technologies employed in the development of NCBI resources. Subjects covered include bioinformatics, genome mapping, molecular modeling, SNPs, ESTs, microarray technologies, and molecular genetics.
Introduction to Molecular Biology Information Resources The Web-based materials for NCBI's three day MLA-approved CE course are designed to support the live presentation of the course, rather than to serve as a Web-based tutorial. However, the materials can be used as a reference and provide an introduction to a variety of topics listed on the course modules page.
NCBI Site Map A guide to NCBI Resources, which includes a brief description of each one. It therefore serves as a glossary of resources, helping users to get an overview of the tools within a category, distinguish between the various tools, and identify which one(s) best meet their needs. Organizes the resources by category, and also provides an alphabetical index to the major and/or most commonly used ones. For those who prefer a fast-load file, a quick links table bypasses the resource description and gives single-click, alphabetical access to approximately 70 NCBI resources.
Education page Includes links to a variety of tutorials and course materials, as well as resources for the general public on genomes and genetics.
Where to get detailed information on major NCBI resources
NCBI Handbook Describes the NCBI databases and search engines in depth, and provides technical details about how the databases work or how they can be leveraged for bioinformatics research on a larger scale. Two versions of the table of contents, short and full , show the topical coverage at a glance.
Nucleic Acids Research Annual Database Issue Includes articles on NCBI resources; each article gives a 3-5 page overview of the scope, nature, and methods of access to a particular NCBI resource. Some articles appear on a biennial basis. In those cases, articles from earlier issues can be retrieved through the "Search Summary Papers" function of " The Molecular Biology Database Collection" Web page [April 10, 2006: This link was removed because it is no longer valid.].
How to keep up with the changes at NCBI
What's New Updated each time a new resource and/or major feature becomes available. Also contains an archive of announcements from past years. Some of the major announcements are also featured as news highlights on the NCBI home page.
News highlights on the NCBI home page Different highlights appear, from a set of rotating highlights, each time the NCBI home page is reloaded. New highlights are added as new or enhanced resources become available, and previous highlights are accessible in the What's New archives.
NCBI News Quarterly publication, available for free in print and on the Web. Concise articles that summarize salient aspects of new or enhanced resources, and often provide examples of how to use them.
NCBI e-mail lists Electronic mailing lists that distribute announcements about changes and updates to various NCBI services. The mailing list provides brief announcements on a broad range of resources and news items. Topic-specific mailing lists provide more detailed announcements about recent and upcoming changes to specific resources.

By Renata Geer
National Center for Biotechnology Information

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Geer R. Molecular Biology Information Resources: Getting Your Footing and Keeping Up with the Pack. NLM Tech Bull. 2003 Sep-Oct;(334):e4.


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Last updated: 19 April 2012