What is available?
The Web provides a vast array of information covering almost any biological research area but, unfortunately, these data are widely dispersed and it is therefore often difficult to find something of interest. To solve this problem, a number of people have begun to catalogue the data into lists organized by subject, provider, or access method. Resources of interest for biologists include:
- Abstracts of articles in press - Biology news and documents - Graphics and general software - Guides and tutorials - Job offers - Journal indexes and databases - Sequence databases - Software for biology
A comprehensive list of locations of biological information archives can be found in Una Smith's "A Biologist's Guide to Internet Resources". Services that provide on-line help to find useful information available on the Web include the Meta-Index of NCSA, CERN's Virtual Library, the Nova-Links created by Rob Kabacoff, and Joel's Hierarchical Subject Index. Keith Robinson at Harvard University maintains a list of WWW servers providing information of interest for biologists. These on-line services are accessible by any WWW client. Written in hypertext they provide a convenient and quick route to everything on the Web. A number of other sites provide similar services using Gopher servers. These sites are accessible by WWW clients as well but lack the hypertext functionality of WWW. Biology-relevant Gopher sites include Don Gilbert's IUBio service, Rob Harper's Finnish EMBnet BioBox, and Reinhard Doelz's list of the European Biology Gopher tree. A list of some WWW starting points for an exploration of Web resources that might be useful for biologists will be given in part 13 of this series of postings. The rules that computers use to exchange messages are called protocols. Most network retrieval systems use their own protocol with limited access to other protocols. In contrast, the HTTP protocols used by WWW servers and clients allows to communicate to other systems including Gopher, WAIS, and FTP.Thus, WWW clients provide access to anything on:
* WWW sites (>200) * Gopher sites (>1000) * WAIS sites (>100) * anonymous FTP sites (>1000) * Usenet News, etc.
This feature makes the WWW system one of the most comprehensive network retrieval tool. In addition, WWW clients are easy to use and - depending on the user's operating system - there are character based as well as graphical interfaces available.