One of my roles is working with scientists in the field and helping them be more productive. Most people are shocked to find that the average scientist today spends over half his/her time doing non scientific tasks. These tasks are things like copying data, editing an excel spreadsheet, etc. All repetitive tasks that can easily be automated; that is what computers are good at.
Collaboration.. Visualization... Communication.. these are the common themes that flow through out the scientific research community. Once you begin to understand that, you begin to see that it is all about people, and not the technology. It is hard sometimes to wrap your head around that. I know as an IT guy I imagined there being these huge "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" style machines calculating cures and running scenarios. But, more often than not, all the scientific research breakthroughs we see come from the human factor.
The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, is a world-renowned cancer and biomedical research facility where scientists and doctors from a variety of disciplines work together to link cancer treatments with the latest research on cancer-fighting drugs. They wanted a better way to organize biological research information and share it with their colleagues. An application was built using .Netfx 3.0, Windows Vista and Microsoft Office Suite that allowed them to better visualize and collaborate together to find a cure. I have seen similar tools before, but what struck me was the idea of actually annotating on the molecule models themselves. This allowed scientists to see the notes of their colleagues while viewing the models that help spur new avenues of thought. I like to call this the "lightbulb" factor. It is also important to note that this application was built by only two developers and in six weeks time.
Please watch this heart warming video of a patient's story and how Scripps is helping.
Full Case study can be found here.