If you’ve ever been asked to help put together a CME activity on molecular biology, you know how difficult it is to get program directors to explain what they’re doing in English. For help, you can now turn to the new, user-friendly "About NCBI" section of the National Center for Biotechnology Information's website. NCBI is a part of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Click here to see the "About NCBI" website.

Experienced students of genetics will find many helpful features, too. "About NCBI" introduces researchers, educators, students, and the public to NCBI's role in organizing, analyzing, and disseminating information in the rapidly growing fields of molecular biology and genetics. Along the way, the website provides helpful lessons about the science underlying NCBI's many resources.

"Users can go as far as their interest and expertise take them," said NCBI Director David Lipman, M.D. "There is a wealth of information there about NCBI's mission and organizational structure, research programs and activities, and online resources."

One popular section is "A Science Primer," which provides introductory material on various science topics and technologies employed in the development of NCBI resources. Subjects covered include bioinformatics, genome mapping, molecular modeling, SNPs, ESTs, microarray technologies, and molecular genetics. (If you're still concerned about the difference between a gene map and a road map, the "Genome Mapping" section makes that distinction with an interesting analogy.) Each primer is written in plain language and includes easy-to-read design features intended to support and extend the main text.

For example, highlight boxes summarize key issues, provide pointers to NCBI-related resources, and illustrate how recent scientific findings can impact human health and disease. Clear, simple figures are used throughout the section to explain complex scientific concepts and help summarize lengthy sections.

The "Model Organism Guide" explains key NCBI model organism resources, mammalian and non-mammalian, and provides access to information and activities designed to facilitate biomedical research.

"Outreach and Education" provides quick access to a complete listing of NCBI courses and tutorials, links to various glossaries defining the concepts and terms used in genomics and bioinformatics research, and recommended links to additional Web resources. "Databases and Tools" offers a catalog of all publicly available NCBI resources. What makes this access point different from existing resource pages is that the user will find a brief description of what the database or data mining tool does, along with an example of how it may be used. "Databases and Tools" also provides a way of quickly accessing all NCBI FTP download sites as well as useful facts and figures depicting the growth and development of NCBI resources. "News" provides short descriptions of recently released resources as well as enhancements to existing ones, press releases, and a listing of available NCBI print material.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information was established at the National Library of Medicine in 1988 to develop new information technologies to aid in the understanding of fundamental molecular and genetic processes that control health and disease. The National Library of Medicine, the world's largest medical library, is a component of the National Institutes of Health.