Searching Beyond Google: Finding legacy biotechnology news

My research work often relies less on explicit search skills and more on understanding the sorts of tracks that information leaves.

Good research is more than Google. It’s about finding the right questions, and asking the right people. And it helps to have been in the industry for a long time.

For example I did a search recently for the CEO of a firm that makes educational toys that use recombinant DNA. When we were chatting I mentioned my memory of such a toy from the middle 1980s. Naturally she was interested, and asked me to send her more information.

This was a non-trivial search. Products and events from before the advent of the world wide web are often hard to find with a simple web search. Add to this that my 30 year old memories were not entirely reliable. For example I mis-remembered the genus of the bacteria that the early kit worked with.

But, I knew it was out there somewhere. My search turned up a book from the mid 1980s, describing the social history of genetic engineering to that point. The author was an academic, still in the field. I tracked down his university page and sent him an email asking if he recalled anything like what I was looking for.

He replied with a hit: “Dr. Cloner’s Genetic Engineering Home Cloning Kit.”

With the name, I was able to track down an article from New Scientist in 1985, and several newspaper articles, all of which I sent to my curious CEO.

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