Abbey B. Lewis, MLS
STEM Engagement Librarian
University of Colorado Boulder
Wiley’s Current Protocols is a collection of over 25,000 peer-reviewed protocols covering methods, materials, and processes used for laboratory research in life science disciplines. The protocols are broadly intended to assist researchers in ensuring accurate and reproducible results while conserving time and resources. Additional details that cover valuable aspects in materials sourcing and troubleshooting are often incorporated. When available, alternate protocols and strategic planning details are included and supporting protocols are referenced or provided directly within the text.
The Current Protocols portal covers subject areas from the former individual Current Protocols journals: Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Chemical Biology, Cytometry, Essential Lab Techniques, Food Analytical Chemistry, Human Genetics, Immunology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Mouse Biology, Neuroscience, Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Pharmacology, Plant Biology, Protein Science, Stem Cell Biology, and Toxicology.
Each protocol is peer-reviewed by editorial board groups designated by subject. Current Protocols does not publish unproven methods, and use of the method in a prior primary research publication is preferred. Notably, methods published in Current Protocols contain a greater level of detail than is typically found in primary research articles, allowing for enhanced value to researchers. Names and affiliations of authors are provided for each protocol.
Current Protocols is intended for researchers across a broad range of life sciences. Essential Laboratory Techniques stands out as a unique subject area because of its coverage of core laboratory techniques and related professional topics (grant writing, scientific communication, etc.) that are especially helpful for undergraduate students or researchers developing their laboratory experience.
Current Protocols excels in directing users to additional resources that can be helpful in forming a more complete picture of how a given protocol has been developed and used. The bottom of each protocol’s page lists reference information so that researchers can track supporting techniques and background information, as well as practical applications of a protocol in laboratory research settings. Many protocols also include links to internet resources, such as a lab or institute where the protocol was developed or training videos for software used in the protocol. Supplementary files also offer a rich variety of information and tools that might include data, detailed sourcing information for materials, or spreadsheet templates for tracking data and monitoring complex processes. There is frequently much more available to researchers than just the protocol itself.
Current Protocols began in 1987 with the title Current Protocols in Microbiology. Wiley acquired Current Protocols in 1995 and began adding additional titles, publishing each on a quarterly basis. In January 2021, Wiley consolidated all the former Current Protocols titles under a single title, Current Protocols, with the past titles functioning as sections. These sections are available for browsing and advanced searches. As a single, interdisciplinary title, Current Protocols is published on a monthly basis.
Browsing functionality is robust, with detailed breakdowns by section, subject, and technique. Subject breakdown differs in overall structure from sections derived from the former Current Protocols titles. The organization enables related topics that may have appeared in several different titles to be grouped together, but is still granular enough to allow researchers to appropriately target relevant areas. For example, chemistry has a radioisotopes subcategory, which contains the third-level category, small molecules and metabolites. By choosing one of the former journal titles from the home page, users can also browse curated collections of protocols from that title that facilitate the discovery of related information. Content published after the 2021 consolidation to Current Protocols is still being integrated into these collections as appropriate.
The search interfaces are simple, with clean layouts and helpful features. Search functionality includes advanced search and citation search options. The citation search requires users to know the journal, volume number, and either the page number or article ID, making it the more labor-intensive option, but also useful for accurately retrieving a single known-item. Author affiliation and funding agency are the most unique advanced search features. Users are able to simultaneously search for several terms in multiple fields and specify a journal, date range, or recently published items to more efficiently target relevant results. The results page itself allows users to examine individual articles, collections, or publications (the former journal titles) that match with keywords. Filters for publication, subject, and technique (with the same breakdown seen in browsing options) also help users navigate results. The Current Protocols interface is compatible with tablets and phones. Content from Current Protocols is also indexed in PubMed, allowing for additional search and discovery options.
Pricing for Current Protocols is dependent on institution type and size, and includes options to purchase single titles separately. Individual users are not able to purchase subscriptions at this time. Wiley offers several options for facilitating user access: authenticated IPs, proxied links, Single Sign-On, and Open Athens. Usage statistics are available through the Wiley Online Library platform, incorporated with any Wiley journal titles to which libraries may already subscribe. Usage is broken down by Current Protocols sections (former titles).
Overall, Wiley’s Current Protocols makes it easy for users to locate information relevant to their needs, whether they are looking for a specific protocol, exploring techniques, or wanting to supplement their knowledge or resources for procedures. The protocols themselves contain clearly written and well-organized information often necessary for successfully operating a laboratory. Considerable supplemental information is available through the platform, making it a strong choice for libraries supporting research activities in the life sciences.