Video Tip of the Week: iPlant’s Discovery Environment

When I highlighted the terrific DNA Subway educational and workflow tool in last week’s tip, I knew it wouldn’t be the only thing I highlighted about the iPlant Collaborative. I’ve been watching them develop tools and provide resources for researchers on a number of fronts. But because their focus is on the plant community, I am not sure other researchers are as familiar with their initiatives. But many of the needs for research tools needed in bioinformatics overlap with other research communities too, and a broader awareness of the tools and the infrastructure is good for everyone.

They are also actively developing these tools, so more users would help them to define the needs and directions. I’ve had several very good interactions with this team now, and they are very eager to be helpful and useful. That’s an excellent phenotype for a project team!

So have a look at their Discovery Environment. They are creating a place where you can take your data, or mine other data, and use a variety of tools to explore and proceed to find new insights. There are hundreds of applications available through there.

For this week’s video tip of the week I would like you to have a look at their wider “Discovery Environment” features. You’ll have a look at how to get started, a bit of orientation, and some of the key things you’ll find available within the framework with a quick tour.

As you can see, their environment provides a lot of useful tools already–but they also make it possible for you to add others that you may require. So it’s got plenty of utility right out of the box–but is further customizable for your research needs too. And it is under active development, so you will likely see more tools coming along in the future.

There are other resources that also pull together an environment and tools researchers need. You might know about Galaxy or Taverna, for example. GenomeSpace is another one to examine and compare. But the specific tool collections and features may vary at these sites, so it’s nice to know about all of them and then have the best chance to locate what you need. And if you are a plant researcher, there is a good chance the iPlant folks have you connected to the appropriate ones.

If the iPlant initiatives are new to you, you can also catch up with more features in additional related videos on their Discovery Environment page, and throughout their site. You can also check out their newly developing Learning Center–and lobby for the next video that would be helpful to your work!

Quick links:

Discovery Environment information page:

Full sized video:


Goff S.A., Vaughn M., McKay S., Lyons E., Stapleton A.E., Gessler D., Matasci N., Wang L., Hanlon M. & Lenards A. & (2011). The iPlant Collaborative: Cyberinfrastructure for Plant Biology., Frontiers in plant science, PMID: