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Searchable Video Interviews with DNA Pioneers Are Now Available

Summary

A searchable database of interviews with notable scientists and public figures now available from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

An oral history of DNA will be at your fingertips through a new searchable database of interviews with notable scientists and public figures now available from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Towering figures of science and public policy—including the co-discoverers of DNA's molecular structure, Francis Crick and James Watson, chemist Linus Pauling, even President Bill Clinton—discuss the impact of DNA science on the modern world in more than 150 hours of interviews available on HHMI's web site. Nobel Prize winner Thomas R. Cech, president of HHMI, and HHMI investigator and 2007 Nobel laureate Mario Cappechi are among those interviewed

The interviews were originally conducted as part of the PBS documentary, DNA, which aired in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA. But only a fraction of the 150 hours of interviews made it into the five-hour documentary.

“We always had the idea that we would make this material available to the public,” says Dennis W.C. Liu, director of HHMI's educational resources. “But once you have 10 hours, let alone 100-plus hours of tape, how do you wade through it? It has to be searchable.”

So HHMI teamed up with Cambridge IPTV, provider of a new searchable internet television technology. Users will be able to search for any word or phrase in the transcripts of the interviews and watch videos from that point. The goal is to make the videos both readily available and easy to use, especially for teachers and students.

Along with the DNA material, HHMI applied the search technology to five of its Holiday Lectures on Science, annual lectures on various scientific topics given by notable researchers. The searchable lectures explore evolution, stem cells, genomics, RNA, and learning from patients.

Liu says the plan is to index all of the lectures if the search function is well received. “I view this as an experiment,” Liu said. “The next step is to make all the great videos we have available to a broader audience in a useable manner.”

To view the searchable videos, go to www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/videosearch.html

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Jim Keeley
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