The research paradigm. A research community is comprised of many investigators who all share a common theme. This can be broad, like the genomics community, or more focused as seen with organism or process specific communities such as those focused on the pathogenesis of Vibrio cholera, or development in C. elegans. Given the deeply collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of science, investigators will often work within multiple communities. The investigators who form these communities manage their own research laboratory, and guide the broader research directions of the laboratory. They will often work together in multi-investigator collaborations on related projects. Students and postdoctoral researchers within each investigators laboratory develop experiments and generate and analyse data related to the goals of the laboratory. These experiments are typically run multiple times in order to process large data sets or generate statistically valid data that are known to be repeatable. These data are then analysed and consolidated into publishable reports, or databases of value to the community.

The GENI system is organized to represent the workflow of a traditional research laboratory adapted to the classroom. There are Communities that share broad themes to which multiple investigators will contribute data and analyses. There are Projects that represent individual investigators research laboratories. There are Courses that represent the experiments, design and planning coordinated by investigators and their students. Finally, there are Classes that represent the experiments that students and postdoctoral researchers carry out in the laboratory. At the academic level we understand that instructors teach Courses (e.g. Genetics) over multiple years with related content. Each time an instructor teaches that course we call it a class. Some classes will have unique content, but they are generally focused on the main themes the instructor would like to convey in the course over the years. The GENI system combines each of these together to form an active online shared collaborative research space that helps instructors to bring authentic research to the classroom, and helps investigators leverage the power of the undergraduate classroom laboratory to fund and move their research forward. In review, the structure of the GENI system is organized at four levels:

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