PAGE 1 OF 2
A Wiki Whiz Kid
by Richard Saltus
When Andrew Hires was working on his Ph.D. in 2006, he decided to check out Wikipedia, the popular online reference, and see what it had to say about green fluorescent protein (GFP). Hires was immersed in the stuff, working in the lab of GFP pioneer and HHMI investigator Roger Tsien at the University of California, San Diego.
What he found was disappointing. “There was very little on the seminal discoveries and who made them, and not much on a lot of the applications that have been developed in the last 10 years,” Hires recalls.
So he rolled up his sleeves, grabbed his mouse, and went to work.
Wikipedia's 10 million or so articles are never finished—they're updated yearly, monthly, even daily if warranted. Hires, now a postdoctoral researcher at Janelia Farm Research Campus, has revised the article on GFP, a substance made by jellyfish that's become a workhorse of biological research, as many as 30 times.
A “wiki”—according to Wikipedia—is “a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content.” When Hires first looked at it, the GFP article was a very basic introduction to the protein's chemical makeup and a few of its scientific applications. (Interestingly, it did contain a brief mention of Alba, a fluorescent bunny created in 2000 with GFP genes commissioned by Brazilian Eduardo Kac, who calls himself a “transgenic artist.”)
Photo: Susana Raab