A small world made better by the internet – an example with microscopes

re:publica 2015
Science & Technology


In many cases companies supply the high tech equipment for research. In the microscopy field, machinery for basic research is often so expensive that only first world labs can afford to participate. But science is not driven by companies. Scientists build the foundation on which commercial developers base their products. This is especially true for microscopy. In this field you also find a vibrant community and what these people came up with is worth a look.


When the term "multi-platform" was a vague idea and Java was not yet out there, there was already a community exchanging software to quantify microscopy images. From those first steps, which were not driven by states, funding agencies or institutes, but by engaged individuals, arose a remarkable free software package. In a "grass-roots" movement-manner, a lot of scientists participate in extending the software and even adapting it to control custom or commercial scientific hardware.

This talk is a little about ImageJ and its over 27 years of being used in biology and especially in microscopy. But it is far more about a community of users, sharing code and ideas, setting standards and beginning to deliver alternatives means of controlling hardware. This all seems hardly worth mentioning since it is quiet common in many aspects of our life with social media and communities. But in this case it is about controlling high-end scientific machinery and doing research with it.

A rather concrete goal, and with the effort of many scientists over the past 27 years, there is also a surprising result: you can cut the cost of a microscope by 95%, because you do not have to think about how to control it – the software is there. Just recently there was a publication entitled "A Blueprint for Cost-Efficient Localization Microcopy" explaining this in detail.

To summarize, a community founded at a time when using a mouse at your computer was "the new thing" has developed a versatile free software package, which has now reached the point of influencing the hardware in the way that not only the well funded parts of the scientific world can do high-end microscopy - everyone can.

Ignite Talk


Dienstag, 5. Mai 2015 - 16:30 bis 17:00


FU Berlin