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Unscripted: Dr. Michael Caplan on the New Elsevier Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences

By: , Posted on: June 25, 2014

NEW Biomedical Sciences Reference Modules LogoDr. Michael Caplan, editor-in-chief of the new Elsevier Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences, comments on the challenges facing life and biomedical science researchers today. He also discusses how Elsevier’s new Reference Modules are trustworthy, current and discoverable, and may improve the research process.


My name is Michael Caplan.  I’m the CNH Long Professor and Chair in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the Yale University School of Medicine.

The challenge for researchers…

In biomedical science we tend to be trained in very narrow disciplines. But it’s also becoming abundantly clear that biomedical science is actually an interwoven web of different disciplinary threads that connect different fields, and require that we actually have access to information in disciplines that are far outside our area of expertise. It’s necessary that we be able to have access to content information that’s outside our area of expertise that allows us to understand the relationship between these different fields, and to connect concepts in our field to concepts from other fields, understand how they interact, and how we can exploit them.

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

Reference Module content is trustworthy

There are really three things that make this [Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences] project exciting, and provide it with unique advantages. One, of course, is the quality of the Editorial Board. They really are leaders and experts in their field, people who have tremendous experience in pulling together the information that is really required to characterize, and define a field.

Reference Module content is current

In addition, and as an extension of that, the information that’s going to be contained in this biomedicine module is going to be curated, so that it is a living, breathing entity that’s going to be continually reviewed, continually updated.

Reference Module content is discoverable

Finally, the idea that we are trying to put together a hierarchy of information that will allow it to be searched vertically and laterally, so that hopefully the interconnections between related concepts from different disciplines can be visualized, and highlighted.

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. The architecture of this project, the way that it will hopefully allow researchers an opportunity to leap from rock to rock, and know which ones they want to turn over, that I think will be the huge advantage.

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