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Library Research Skills for Biologists

Introduction to scholarly communication

How can I use this?

Many research projects, experiments, and findings start with informal communication between people. Understanding this communication can help you when researching the history of an idea, such as the rise in public awareness of the local food movement.

The invisible College

Before anything is published, original research is often shared through informal communication with colleagues in order to benefit from the feedback of others in the field. This situation is often known as the invisible college and in Banting's time would have occurred in person or by mail. Today, these methods have been joined by:

  • Email
  • Blogs
  • Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The insulin experiment

On October 30, 1920, Frederick Banting, a young surgeon in London, Ontario was reading an article in preparation for a lecture he was going to give the next day about carbohydrate metabolism. After reading the article, Banting had an IDEA of how the internal secretion might be isolated. He presented his idea to J.J.R. MacLeod, a physiologist at the University of Toronto, and in the spring of 1921, Banting joined MacLeod's lab and began research with the help of a fourth year student, Charles Best.

Over the summer and fall of 1921, Banting and Best conducted experiments to isolate the internal secretion from animal pancreas. By administering the extract to diabetic dogs, they had some success at lowering blood sugar levels and keeping the dogs alive. In December, they were joined by J.B. Collip a biochemist from the University of Alberta, who was better able to purify the extract. In January 1922, they successfully administered Collip's precipitate to a 14-year-old patient at Toronto General Hospital.

The story of the discovery of insulin is fascinating, and you can read more about it in The Discovery of Insulin (Bliss 1982)>[1].