What’s the Answer? (building the ultimate bioinformatics resource)

This week’s highlighted item will apparently answer all the questions in the future, rendering my weekly foray moot. Ok, kidding aside, I think this is a great idea. A sort of “living” better-than-textbook project that will really be the only way to keep up with a field that changes as fast as bioinformatics does. If they can pull it off.

Biostars is a site for asking, answering and discussing bioinformatics questions and issues. We are members of the Biostars_logo community and find it very useful. Often questions and answers arise at Biostars that are germane to our readers (end users of genomics resources). Thursdays we will be highlighting one of those items or discussions here in this thread. You can ask questions in this thread, or you can always join in at Biostars.

I have been teaching bioinformatics courses for a few years now and I have always felt that existing resources were inadequate.

Most are either too programming and unix oriented or too focused on one particular “protocol” ignoring alternatives that may produce different results. In addition most resources tend to focus on installation and running the tool rather than understanding the outputs. Disclaimer: I am guilty of this as well! I always felt that I had to start from zero each time I write a guide and towards the end there is too much material already and I have to cut short at the most interesting parts. But that is because there has never been an updated and reliable resource that I can refer people to. Until now. Biostar_handbook

I am starting a “bioinformatics handbook” resource it is called the Biostar Handbook. I would like it be a repository of practical advice on bioinformatics methods, a resource that is useful to both beginners and advanced users, a collection of curated experiences of bioinformaticians around the world. The book will be comprehensive with ebook and online components that will continue to grow and expand over the years. It will come at very low cost of about $25 to ensure that the task of maintaining, correcting and supporting it won’t solely require personal enthusiasm and could be contracted out if necessary.

I would like to invite everyone to contribute via GitHub: you will retain authorship, copyright and distribution rights on all content you create. And since we are creating the ultimate guide to Bioinformatics ;-) I think it will be great adventure for everyone involved.

Contribution guide:

Book website:

Help us create the best bioinformatics resource that was ever conceived!

Istvan Albert 

Traditional publishing is out of date in so many ways. But in a field that changes so quickly, there has to be another solution. The initial design and idea for Biostar was to be an active question and answer resource with up-to-date information about bioinformatics tools and strategies. Evolving it into a more cohesive teaching resource is a neat idea. This has to happen. And I hope it flies. Check out the discussion at Biostar to see how it’s being received. And over at the book page you can sign up to be notified about the availability. Do sign up to show some support for the project if you are interested. And/or, contribute your own important chapter!


Parnell, L., Lindenbaum, P., Shameer, K., Dall’Olio, G., Swan, D., Jensen, L., Cockell, S., Pedersen, B., Mangan, M., Miller, C., & Albert, I. (2011). BioStar: An Online Question & Answer Resource for the Bioinformatics Community PLoS Computational Biology, 7 (10) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002216