When scientists and engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) want to tell their peers about experimental methods they have "road-tested" for reliability and consistent results, they can now spread the word via a new agency publication series.
Documents in the NIST Special Publications 1200 (SP-1200) protocol series are guidebooks for the design and implementation of experiments that facilitate successful replication of results by others. These may include detailed procedural "recipes," lists of required equipment and instruments, information on safety precautions, methods for calculating results and strategies for reporting standards.
"The NIST SP-1200 series lets our researchers share what would be the 'methods section' of a journal paper when a procedure is successful—even before there is enough research to warrant publication of a full article," says Leah Kauffman, a NIST communications specialist and one of the creators of the system. "In fact, these documents may have more procedural detail than would typically be accommodated in a journal article."
Kauffman says that the SP-1200 series offers a number of advantages over traditional means of disseminating pre-journal methodologies such as private communications, self-publishing or simple sharing on peer websites. "The publications are approved by NIST's internal scientific review board, are easily accessible through the NIST Research Library's online catalog* or the WorldCat global catalog, are available on the NIST Publications Portal, and most importantly, have a citable, permanent DOI [digital object identifier]," she says.
While the NIST SP-1200 series is meant for methods and protocols of any type, the fast-moving field of nanotechnology has provided the subject matter for the first five documents published. All five describe protocols for the measurement, dispersion and characterization of engineered nanoparticles in different media as developed by NIST and collaborators at Duke University's Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT). The partners hope that by broadly disseminating these methods, it will lead to their broader acceptance and use in studies assessing the environmental, health and safety (EHS) impacts of nanoparticles.
To find NIST SP-1200 volumes, go to the NIST Publications Portal at www.nist.gov/publication-portal.cfm, select "Special Publication (NIST SP)" in the "By series" search block and then type "1200" in the "By report number" search block.