Proposal: Synthetic Biology

There is lots of variation between labs/practitioners on how to execute even common protocols. Thus, if people are asking for help on a protocol, it may be problematic to try to help them if they don't include sufficiently specific information about the protocol.

I would suggest that on a SynBio.SE site, that if people ask for help debugging a protocol that they be required to post a snippet from the protocol and/or a link to an online version of the full protocol (e.g., at protocols.io), in much the same way that people on StackOverflow post code snippets when asking for help here.

  • You haven't even got past Definition, this is a question that can only be resolved once in beta, using the (proto)meta. – Nij Jan 31 at 0:31
  • @Nij That's fine; somebody brought this up in discussion, and I figured it would be good to stick a pin on the question now, because I know it's going to come back again. Like an issue for a future version. – jakebeal Jan 31 at 0:36

I think that if a protocol is necessary for the question to be answered properly then it absolutely should be a guideline of the site that the questioner should include it. I can imagine that otherwise the first comment on every question is going to be "What conditions did you use for your PCR", "what was the molecular weight of your protein" and every answer "it depends on whether you're doing x or y". EDIT: This should be a MWP (minimal working protocol) that doesn't include information irrelevant to the question.

I would shy away from saying that this needs to be in a particular format however, as I think that this will add unnecessary friction. EDIT: If questioners link to an external site for their protocol, it would be better that this link is likely to be long-lived, and certain sites lend themselves to that more easily.

We could also consider that it might be good practice for answers to include protocols, or updated versions of the protocols that questioners supply, in the same way that programming answers would include code.

  • Two thoughts: (1) if a person embeds a snippet, that's likely available enough; I don't think we need to be purists about openness. (2) since many protocols are very long and detailed, people answering will likely often have neither the time nor the inclination to go through the whole thing, and more than they'd read an entire software project. – jakebeal Jan 30 at 18:39
  • Thanks, @jakebeal, I've updated my answer to take into account your points. – Noah Sprent Feb 1 at 11:27

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