In my last post I talked a bit about the formation of Rubicon and how we arrived at our name. Another question we are asked regularly is why we are doing what we do? I would like to say it was out of own brilliance but more accurate would be that we were already doing the work.
In late 2001 I started scanning journal articles when I was watching TV on nights that we did not meet to discuss crevice micronuclei (Read as: watching bubbles form inside pint glasses). I was doing this because I was getting tired of searching for articles only to hunt them down again as soon as I could not find the copy I made the last time I need it. I was introduced to EndNote and thought it would save me a tremendous amount of time to build a library for myself.
Early in 2002, US Office of Naval Research had recently completed an evaluation of the operational needs for undersea medicine in collaboration with the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS). It was clear that the growth of research in our field was looking at a serious hurdle in the lack of researchers. When looking at new researchers, they found that 60% left the field in less than ten years. As if that were not bad enough, they went on to point out that 52% of the senior scientists in our field would retire in less than ten years and 96% would be retired unless than twenty.
We established that we wanted access to these documents ourselves and the senior scientists looked to be moving towards retirement without passing along their knowledge directly at an alarming rate. With a scanning project that was already well underway, establishing our starting point could not have been easier. These documents eventually became the Rubicon Research Repository (RRR) with a donation from UHMS to buy our first server and put all this work online.
The initial import was almost completely UHMS documents with a few US Navy documents. We have been very fortunate forming collaborations to grow the RRR collections. Young scientists as well as graduate students have all expressed how the RRR has proven to be a valuable resource to their work. The RRR has also become one of the databases searched as new literature reviews are published in our field.
In 2008 we began to harness the power of Wikipedia to increase the exposure of the documents we hold. When we started, the diving and hyperbaric articles had almost no references to support their content. With over 9,500 publications and abstracts in the RRR now, continuing to gain exposure through the over 1,700 links from Wikipedia references continues to be a top priority.
This medium has opened the door for discussion between patients and their physicians in a way we would not have thought possible. A few years ago one of the neurosurgeons called for a hyperbaric consult on a patient. It was an odd request since the condition was outside of the normal approved indications hyperbarics. When I followed up with the surgeon to find out why he considered hyperbarics a few weeks later, he said the patient’s family had read the Wikipedia article on this condition and wanted to know if it would help their daughter. I had placed that abstract as a reference in the article two months prior to this consult. I would not have even imagined that something so simple as a reference could have impacted a clinical course this way.
Get your information first, then you can distort it as you wish — Mark Twain
After building the RRR and facilitating further access to our collections, the next phase of growth was to answer some of our own questions. We have been doing this for several years now with our decompression risk analysis project that utilizes mathematical models developed by Dr Wayne Gerth to assess decompression planning tools as well as operational procedures. This has really brought us back to our roots as technical divers and allowed us a much better understanding of what goes on inside our bodies. More recently we have looked to help answer the questions from a group of breast cancer survivors with our Project Pink Tank.
The undersea medicine and research community is now over half way to the 20 year and 96% retirement rate established in 2002. I wish I could say that things in our field had changed but we are ahead of the timeline established in that report. Another huge hit has been the recent loss of research facilities. In the last five years research facilities in both Wisconsin and New York have stopped doing undersea research for various reasons. The recent lack of US Government budget further hurt our already failing ability to recruit new people into the field and keep them here. Anyway we look at it, our field is hurting. This growing and possibly accelerating need only strengthens Rubicon’s resolve to make a meaningful impact.
With the decline in funding that has been available for our field since the early 1980′s and with increasing economic tensions globally, we are bracing ourselves for what may very well become a forced independence. Over the last week we have been finalizing the paperwork, locking down our methods, and setting up our sustainability experiment. As soon as the pieces are all in place, I look forward to showing how we are combining new technologies and professional skill sets to move into this third and most critical phase of our growth.
(And yes, I will get back to the regular Rubicon Research Repository updates as well. Thanks for your patience while we get this started.)
 Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. An Assessment Of A National Naval Need For Undersea Research. Office of Naval Research, report in response to 5000 Ser 341/270 20 Feb 02.
 Li JH, Hobbs GW. The Use of Wikipedia for Increasing Awareness About Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Undersea and Hyperbar Med 2009; 36(4): 253 RRR ID: 8232
Gene Hobbs is a technical diver and founding board member of the non-profit Rubicon Foundation. Hobbs has served as medical officer for the Woodville Karst Plain Project since 2004 and was named the 2010 Divers Alert Network/ Rolex Diver of the year. Hobbs is the medical simulation coordinator for a simulation and patient safety laboratory at a major university medical center.