What’s The Answer? (what frustrates you?)

angryOk, this week’s attempt to get at answers to big (and small) questions is not from one of the usual places that I do my question-mining. This came from Twitter. It started out as a request for some survey data among the bioinformatics/genomics twitterati. And it turned into a fascinating, raw, thoughtful, irreverant, and compelling read of the real issues out there. Also Mick Watson.

Clicking on the timestamp for the tweet will give you a glimpse into some of the chatter. But be sure to look at the actual answers for some really good ideas about what’s frustrating to researchers and people who are training others.

I was scanning through the results mostly focusing on the columns:

  • What problems running software if any do you most often encounter with this solution?
  • If you train students, please say what in your view is the biggest challenge for training students in bioinformatics?

Here’s a quick sample of what the data looks like:

Some of it’s not new, of course. The number of times poor or inadequate documentation comes up…sigh.


People want this. But few will pay for it or take it seriously. No, I’m not bitter. Really. 

The data is available for anyone to look at, over at FigShare. I want to take a close look one of these days with a nice cup of hot chocolate and think about some of the gaps here. I suspect there are some really informative nuggets. But I wonder if there are viable solutions.

Edit to add: This same data set generated a post by Keith Bradnam. He seems to have noticed the same thing.

We asked 272 bioinformaticians…name something that makes you angry: more reflections on the poor state of software documentation.



Loman, Nicholas, & Connor, Thomas (2015). Bioinformatics infrastructure and training survey. figshare. Retrieved 15:19, Oct 20, 2015