The STKE was the first of the knowledge environments hosted at HighWire Press. There are now five. AAAS considers STKE as part of the suite of products referred to as Science Online. One of the areas of knowledge environment that Science Online is moving into next is the biology of aging, because it has some of the same characteristics that were used for choosing signal transduction before: It is interdisciplinary, does not have a home base, and a need exists for scientists to talk across fields.
The STKE has both traditional and nontraditional types of publications and functions. In addition to providing access to the typical journal literature, Science tried to create a community environment, so there is an area with tools that relate to that community, resources that scientists would use, and then the most interesting part, which is the various external connections.
On the macro level, what is a publication? Parts of STKE are very familiar; they look like what you would think of as a publication, although it is really a collection of many items that used to be considered each as a separate publication. The STKE has connected them all together in this environment, which is considered to be a publication itself. It has its own International Serial Standard Number (ISSN); it is indexed by Medline; and the updated reviews, protocols, and perspectives all have their own digital object identifiers. In many ways, that part of it is very familiar and very similar to a traditional publication, but then it was combined with these other aspects to make a larger publication. The scientific community will see more of this in the future, as publishers move away from just putting the content of print journals online and try to pull diverse sources together.
The STKE virtual journal has full-text access to articles about signal transduction from 45 different journals, including some that are represented at this symposium. They are referred to as the participating publishers. When their journals go online at HighWire Press, the STKE uses an algorithm that scans the content and selects the materials related to signaling, which the subscribers to the STKE can access.
The community-related functions of STKE include letters, discussion forums, and directories. That has been the hardest part to develop. The initial presumption was that this would be perhaps the most exciting or interesting aspect, providing people with a place to talk across fields and to each other and with scientists that they do not normally see at their meetings, but in fact, that has been the most difficult part to really get going. Other STKE functions include learning services, reviews of the current literature with highlights of what is important, and custom electronic table of contents and personalization—the ability to put things in personalized folders, to save searches, and to relate resources.
At the macro level, the STKE has been accepted as a publication. It has 45,000 unique computers visiting a month, with about a quarter of those coming back more than once a month. There are 30,000 requests for full texts of original articles, 5,000 PDF reprint downloads, and 10,000 connection map pages viewed.
Within this larger publication there are parts than in and of themselves are a new kind of publishing and a new kind of publication. One of these is the connections map. This is basically a Sybase relational database of information about the signaling pathways. The connections map is pathway-centric, versus some efforts that are being done that are molecule-centric. In the long run, this will be an interesting way of synthesizing information and will have a lot of use.
Each entry within the database is created by an authority, who is solicited by the editors at STKE. On top of this database there is a graphical user interface. To create this database, HighWire worked with STKE to create a software that is downloaded for the authority to work on to enter data into the system. As time goes on, the real value of this will be adding bioinformatic tools on top of this database to enhance the ability to find new and interesting information. The authorities that work with STKE on this are willing to do so because Science had existing relationships with them as authors. They trusted STKE to put out quality content and to try to make sure that this kind of effort is recognized. They put this kind of effort into creating the STKE because of the reputation of Science and its reliability. During this time of experimenting, that is really important.
At this point, the question is: Is this effort moving beyond what would just be called a database entry to a true publication? For each of these pathways, the authors are supplying abstracts, and metadata are being created at the pathway level. The STKE plans to submit those to PubMed and see what happens when it submits the rest of its information.