This truly is a magnum opus on a mind-boggling scale.
COPE began 20 years ago as a "Dictionary of Cytokines" - the first of its kind. Its favourable reception by the scientific community is illustrated best by one book reviewer calling the dictionary "a kind of Rosetta Stone of Cytokine Research", and another reviewer wrote that he never looked for such a dictionary as he thought it could not be written, and certainly not by a single author.
The first COPE internet version (COPE 2.0) was released in 1997. A lot has happened since then. Not only have existing entries been updated continuously, but new entries going beyond simple entries for cytokines and growth factor are constantly being added. During the past 15 years COPE an extensive collection of topic-specific subdictionaries has been added (choose "Overview" from COPE menu). COPE now is a concise and yet comprehensive extremely hypertexted web encyclopedia covering the manifold aspects of cellular communication biology.
Being a scientist writing for scientists, I concentrate on knowledge consolidation and navigation, explaining, and putting knowledge into perspective in a way that no other databank does. A plethora of links between individual COPE entries reflect the complexities of communication biology and provide Value-Added Information by visualizing all the different relationships between scientific facts and concepts, and, of course, terminology and alternative nomenclature that haunts the field - guiding the user through the zoo of peptides, proteins, cytokines, growth factors, hormones, the jungle of interactions, the morasses of acronyms, and the desert of synonyms.
COPE as educational and research resource
As a manually curated established and respected scientific information resource COPE is a first-class tool for research, e-learning, and education, and makes an important contribution towards bioinformatics. Practically everyone who needs to come to grips with the highly complex interdisciplinary discipline of investigating how cells communicate with one another uses COPE. Biomedical professionals from cell biologists, immunologists, endocrinologists, oncologists, hematologists, virologists, biochemists, molecular biologists, to physicians and clinicians consult COPE.
COPE fills gaps left open by other data banks:
Important resources such as OMIM, UNIPROT, ENTREZ, GENBANK, HGNC, PUBMED do not address relationships between cell types and the factors they produce or respond to. COPE is particularly strong in highlighting such relationships. To my knowledge, COPE is the only encyclopedia containing a comprehensive sub dictionary of eukaryotic cell types and their activities.
COPE clarifies an often inconsistent and confusing terminology and is designed as a vade mecum for the journey through a veritable morass of terms, concepts, strategies, factors, and bioactivities.
Single launching point for different education levels:
COPE users point out that COPE is the only site that serves a wide diversity of interests and education levels. They use COPE as a single launching point for finding pertinent information scattered throughout the scientific literature, and this makes an enormous difference to their work. COPE helps users to interpret scientific publications, plan experiments, and even to prepare entire lecture classes on communication biology.
COPE is a discovery tool that enables clinicians and research scientists to identify network connections not appreciated previously, because extensive cross-referencing between COPE entries provides value-added information by putting huge amounts of discrete minutiae about cells and proteins into all-important perspective.