A compilation of web-based resources you should know about as a scientist

Do you ever feel lost trying to stay on top of the latest research-related softwares, programs and websites? In this post, we share the work of James Ducker, a PhD student who created a synthesised resource database that contains several useful links, especially for early career scientists.

3 min read
A compilation of web-based resources you should know about as a scientist

Many of us are familiar with the overwhelming feeling of trying to stay on top of all research-related softwares, tools and resources that are available to us online. Especially during the  early career stage, our mentors expect us to know about the latest developments (like electronic lab notebooks, statistics software, coding programs etc), learn how to use them and distill the useful information to share with them. James Ducker (JD), a PhD student in marine biology, wanted to make our lives easier, and created a single document that contains a curated list of web-based tools and resources. In his own words, this list "provides information and useful links for educational and professional purposes" for researchers with very diverse backgrounds and career stages. JD's resource database includes links for volunteering, funding opportunities, coding and writing softwares, and much more! JD recently published an article showcasing his database. As we thought you, our awesome reader, would really benefit from this database, we reached out to JD to learn about his motivations, and the path that lead him to create this document.

What was your main motivation to create this resource database?

JD: Throughout my education I have frequently faced divergent practices regarding web-based resources. Some courses insisted on the importance of one resource over any other, and very few academic courses considered the advantages of using different tools simply for the sake of familiarity. My main motivation for developing a library of resources was therefore to gather as much information on tools with known effectiveness, and to share it with peers who may find it useful. This is particularly since I believe that familiarity with web-based resources has become an extremely sought after skill. Although this expertise does not reflect the actual quality of the individual, it eliminates many candidates from job prospects. As such, I hope that sharing some of these useful tools may help peers learn new skills and  improve their chances past graduation.

What kind of links can we find in this database?

JD: This database comprises many different types of resources I have found across the internet, which are divided into separate lists. The first list is based on resources that range from academic writing and poster design to coding and programming courses. The second compiles a variety of jobs, volunteering opportunities, and programs ranked by locations. The third and fourth lists present some of the many international travel and funding opportunities for individuals and organizations to apply for. The fifth list consists of a table of scientific databases to find information across different scientific disciplines (e.g. aerospace, economics, music), whereas the sixth list presents some of the numerous mailing lists to join, for people interested in receiving news or discuss about a particular discipline. Finally, there is a list of random and very miscellaneous links that I think could be interesting for people to explore in their free time, as they are not particularly science based or educational.

Do you have recommendations regarding links or info that you consider more relevant for early career scientists?

JD: I think that early career scientists may benefit the most by first exploring the layout of the database, before selecting and bookmarking some of the links they may find useful to their field or academic level. I particularly recommend joining some of the mailing lists and bookmarking some of the databases relevant to each discipline. In addition, the use of this resource database may benefit students looking for funding for their projects, and also for those seeking for volunteering opportunities (although the status of these programs may be affected by the current pandemic).

Do you plan to keep updating the database regularly?

JD: I plan on updating the resource database whenever I find new useful resources, or receive feedback on the existing ones. I am also searching for a more interactive design that allows me to include additional resources from students from all around the world. I would also like to allow students to comment on, or rate resources based on usefulness and experience. Ultimately, I aim to find the most effective ways to share this resource as widely as possible and help early career scientists maximize their potential.

Have you already received feedback from people?

JD: I have received several comments on the resource list, particularly asking for more coding-based links (which I have tried to incorporate). However, this was from peers within my own field, and I would welcome any feedback or comments from scientists beyond the life sciences. I very much look forward to improve this database, so please feel free to contact me if you have ideas or want to help me somehow.

James Ducker is a PhD student of marine biology in Hong Kong. He completed his undergraduate degree in Manchester and his master's degree in Plymouth. Connect with James on Twitter.

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