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New Web Site for Synchrotron Users

A new Web site is in place to put at researchers' fingertips detailed information on US synchrotron beamlines for macromolecular crystallography. The National Institutes of Health Division of Research Resources (NCRR) has funded the National Biomedical Computation Resource (NBCR), centered at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, to develop a Web site for BioSync, the Structural Biology Synchrotron Users Organization. The site, http://biosync.sdsc.edu, began operating over the summer as a portal for investigators planning visits to synchrotron facilities and as a central resource for researchers in structural biology seeking information about such facilities.

Over the past ten years, the importance of high-energy synchrotron beams in x-ray crystallography has grown rapidly, BioSync research reveals. In 1990, a survey estimated that about 18% of publications of new structures reported use of synchrotron radiation. In the early 1990s, that figure jumped to 25%. New synchrotron facilities and widespread adoption of cryopreservation of crystals led to an increase in synchrotron dependence to 49% of new structure publications in 1998.

The new Web site addresses an urgent need for a central location with information on synchrotron beamlines for macromolecular crystallography. Along with researchers' growing dependence on synchrotron radiation, the number of new beamlines is expanding rapidly, and operating beamlines are being upgraded continuously. The intent of the Web site is to demystify what has been a word-of-mouth process and help to rationalize and democratize the use of the facilities.

A BioSync committee outlined the new Web site to include information on the capabilities and instrumentation of each beamline, as well as key staff, access procedures, and pointers to local Web sites. The intent is to give users a single point of entry to obtain information about US beamlines for crystallography. The BioSync committee included Daved Fremont (Washington University), Osnat Herzberg (University of Maryland), Alfonso Móndragon (Northwestern University), Dan Thiel (Cornell University), John Badger (San Diego Supercomputing Center) and Janet Smith (Purdue University).

The Structural Biology Synchrotron Users Organization (BioSync) was formed in 1990 to promote access to synchrotron radiation for scientists whose primary research is in the field of structural biology and who use synchrotron radiation for experiments in crystallography, spectroscopy, scattering from noncrystalline materials and imaging. The BioSync membership includes leaders of all such structural biology research groups in North America. Further information on BioSync is available from a report developed to evaluate the existing resources and future needs for synchrotron radiation.

The NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) supports the research infrastructure of many shared facilities, including stations for crystallography at Cornell, Stanford, Brookhaven and Argonne and The National Biomedical Computational Resource (NBCR).