Background

We, the founders of Garbrook, have long been interested in new ways to build and use knowledge resources. We have most recently built knowledge resources for use by experts in renewable energy. Prior to the founding of Garbrook, we have built knowledge resources for genomic and proteomic analysis of cells. Our interest in the “omic” fields traces back to the research career of Dr. Garrels at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and to his graduate student research at UC San Diego and the Salk Institute. There he developed early technology to detect and measure thousands of proteins at one time from cells grown in the laboratory. That work led to a position at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, under Dr. James Watson, where he advanced the laboratory and computational methods for proteomic analysis. His studies revealed many proteins that change in cancer cells, but they also revealed the inadequacy of the knowledge resources of the time to aid in the interpretation of large-scale data. When the Internet became available in the mid-1990s, Dr. Garrels was one of the first to begin combing the literature for facts about the known proteins and their genes to build online databases. At Proteome Inc., Dr. Garrels and Dr. Brooks led a large team of curators and bioinformatic scientists who extracted information from publications in the biological literature to build online knowledge resources for the interpretation of genomic, proteomic, and other “omic” types of data. In the 2000s, as the genomics field matured and concerns about climate change grew, we founded Garbrook Knowledge Resources, turning our attention to broader areas of science, impacts of science on society, and the public understanding of science.

Now, in the mid-2010s, vast amounts of online information are freely available in all fields. Much of the primary literature is online for anyone to use without charge. Various academic groups have received funding to curate the new knowledge in their specialties, and users now expect to find organized knowledge resources in every field of science and technology. Scientists have also become aware of the need for public outreach. Most research groups maintain a website to explain their work in simple terms, most professional societies do public outreach, and the publicly-curated Wikipedia has become a broad and useful resource for basic science knowledge. Ordinary users, and we are all ordinary users outside of our specialties, can access scientific knowledge not only through simple Web search, but also through self-directed exploration of online knowledge resources and through the many online courses for structured learning. The rise of online knowledge resources has completely transformed the Web as a learning tool since the founding of Garbrook, and these changes have led us to alter the focus of our business. We no longer pursue the creation of new knowledge resources for use by experts; instead, we are committed to building tools that facilitate the use of knowledge resources by ordinary people.