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Inside the Lab Training and education, Bioinformatics

Big Push for Big Data

Advances in disciplines such as genomics and proteomics have caused the profile of big data in the life sciences to rise dramatically – but graduates may not be getting the training they need to analyze it. This has inspired an international group of bioinformatics educators and trainers to form GOBLET – the global organization for bioinformatics learning, education and training, with the aim of creating a training portal to support the next generation of bioinformaticians (1).

“Traditional life science degree programs have tended not to focus on the development of bioinformatics skills, so that graduates and postgraduates are often ill-equipped to understand either the data or the data quality in open databases,” says Vicky Schneider, a GOBLET executive, speaking on behalf of the organization and colleagues, including Teresa Atwood, Michelle Brazas and Fran Lewitter from the UK, Canada and the US. “The advent of high-throughput technologies has exacerbated the problem, bringing not only “traditional bioinformatics” (e.g. sequence searching, multiple alignment, variant detection), but also data-driven science sharply into the spotlight in terms of the ongoing, and now urgent need to provide training in data-analysis and data-interpretation,” adds Schneider.

GOBLET aims to help bridge the bioinformatics skills gap by providing a support network, and developing standards and guidelines for education and training. “We have grown to around 30 organization members including leading societies, networks and institutes, and we have launched an open training portal. Increasingly we are being invited to collaborate and share efforts,” says Schneider.

In other bioinformatics news, several organizations including the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) have received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to support scientists from the UK and China in managing and sharing their metabolomics data; skills the BBSRC believe are essential for furthering the impact of scientific research. Christoph Steinbeck of EMBL-EBI commented, “There is already a lot of commitment in the metabolomics research community to data sharing and reuse – our main challenge is simply in training people how best to incorporate this into their regular working practices. The BBSRC has recognized that this area of molecular biology is growing more quickly than any other, and that we need to do everything we can to train and support scientists in sharing data. That will lead to better quality data, more efficient research and shorter time to discovery.”

It is clear that, as the sheer volume of data being obtained from processes such as next generation sequencing continue to increase in leaps and bounds, further training and education is needed to ensure the new generation of researchers are prepared to deal with the new generation of big data. The advice from GOBLET? “Get involved! Join GOBLET, and shape and influence the future of training courses by sharing your training needs.”

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  1. TL Atwood, “GOBLET: the global organization for bioinformatics learning, education and training” PLoS Comput Biol, 11, e1004143 (2015). PMID: 25856076.
About the Author
Roisin McGuigan

I have an extensive academic background in the life sciences, having studied forensic biology and human medical genetics in my time at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. My research, data presentation and bioinformatics skills plus my ‘wet lab’ experience have been a superb grounding for my role as an Associate Editor at Texere Publishing. The job allows me to utilize my hard-learned academic skills and experience in my current position within an exciting and contemporary publishing company.

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