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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Other Information Sharing Opportunities

Mailing lists, newsgroups, discussion forums, social media, etc




It is often difficult to retrieve information about the Three Rs from traditional bibliographical databases. This is because the abstract and title of a paper is unlikely to contain any detailed reference to the procedures used, unless the development or modification of a procedure is the subject of the article. Indeed, even the full text of a paper may not describe the methods used in sufficient detail to enable such an identification to be made.

One way to find out this sort of information is to make informal enquiries of other scientists and technicians. The following provide the opportunity for this sort of communication.



Mailing lists


Mailing lists are made up of a group of people who send messages to a computer known as a list server. The list server distributes each message to every person on the list by e-mail. List members reply to messages received or post messages about new topics. Each group of messages with the same subject line is called a thread. Mailing Lists were more popular in the 1990s and early 2000s but usage has declined in favour of Discussion/ Web Forums (see below). However, some lists are still active and very useful such as:


TechLink [Link ]: an electronic mailing list (listserve) created especially for animal care technicians in the field of laboratory animal science.

It is always necessary to subscribe to a mailing list. Some mailing lists are open to anyone who wants to join, while others (such as the one above are restricted and require approval from the list owner.


Some mailing lists are moderated. This means that a person, the list moderator, monitors the messages that are received and decides whether they should be mailed out to the list. The moderator may also remove someone from the list if that person has repeatedly been abusive to other list members or violated the agreed rules of the list. The list moderator may also be responsible for deciding who can be admitted into the list. For these reasons, moderated lists are usually more disciplined than unmoderated lists and tend to have fewer trivial or irrelevant messages.




Usenet newsgroups work in a similar way to mailing lists in that people send and respond to messages and all messages are sent to each recipient of the newsgroup. However, Usenet does not use e-mail, but a completely different system to transfer the messages. They are sent first to the local news server, which may be based at the Internet service provider or, in the case of large organisations, within the organisation itself. The server copies out the messages to other news servers and receives new ones which it passes on in "newsfeeds" to its users.


In order to belong to a newsgroup, it is necessary to be within a system that receives newsfeed and have newsreading software. The individual user then sets up the software to receive only the newsgroups of interest. The software will display the messages by newsgroup, and grouped in threads according to subject within each newsgroup. Replies to a message can either be posted to the whole group or e-mailed to the originator. The news server keeps messages for a limited time only, so if the user does not access the server on a regular basis, some messages may be lost. However, it is possible to access newsgroup archives.


A newsgroup is open to anyone whose newsfeed supplies the relevant hierarchy. Some newsgroups are moderated, which means that all messages are first e-mailed to the moderator who decides which will go through into the newsgroup. Many are not. Newsgroups tend to attract more trivial messages and spam.


Tile.Net [Link ] offers browsable lists of Mailing Lists and Newsgroups and the ability to search for information.

Google Groups [Link] provides a way to participate in online discussions and find and join groups relevant to your interests.



Discussion forums


Discussion or Web Forums serve the same function as mailing lists and newsgroups, but the messages appear on a web site and are not sent out to individual members/readers. Access to the site may be either open or require a user name and password. The messages are displayed in threads according to subject. Responses and new messages are posted from the web site. Usually, only the newest messages are displayed. The owner of the web site may maintain an archive of older messages which can be consulted.

The Science Forum [Link] is one example of such a forum. It requires you to register but this is free and open to anyone.

Social Media Groups

As online social media has become increasingly popular it offers users the opportunity to follow groups, get breaking news and interact with others instantly. For a useful introduction to social media for scientists see Bik and Goldstein (2013). [Link]

Linked in [Link] is the world's largest professional network with 200 million members in 200 countries and territories around the globe. It enables members to search, browse and join groups that are of interest to them. It also suggests groups that you might be interested in. Access to some groups requires approval by the group manager. Once you have joined a group you can opt to receive alerts about discussions, events etc. and you can post comments to the group.

Facebook [Link] is a social networking service. Once a member you can search for groups or pages that are of interest to you and if you join (groups) or like (pages) you can opt to receive notifications from them and can post on them.

Twitter [Link] is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. Simply find the accounts you find most compelling and follow the conversations. Twitter operates via small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long. You can see photos, videos and conversations directly in Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place. You can just follow other people or organisations without tweeting yourself or you can interact.