intro_curation

Video Tip of the Week: Introduction to Biocuration and the career path

ISB_biocuration

The ISB is a professional organization for biocurators

At OpenHelix, we’ve long sung the praises of curators. Some of us have been curators and worked with curation and database development teams. All of us have relied on quality information in the databases for research and teaching. But I think there are a lot of people who don’t understand the value of quality curation, how it’s done, and who curators are. They are widely taken for granted.

A recent talk by Claire O’Donovan of EBI-EMBL helps to explain the roles and the importance of biocurators. So although this talk isn’t a typical software talk, I think understanding this is crucial to everyone’s appreciation of how information you rely on gets into the databases you use. And if you find yourself in situations where you are guiding students, knowing about this career is also worthwhile.

Claire O’Donovan has had a front row seat to the development of this field, and has great enthusiasm for the future. And going forward, in your doctor’s office as precision medicine and treatments become a thing–how much do you want correct information in the databases? Mining data, standardizing language for descriptions of features, and sharing this information is crucial for all of us.

Here’s what’s covered in this video, from the agenda slide:

  • Introduction to the concept of biocuration.
  • The different kinds of biocurators, and the skill set needed.
  • Our community: Biocuration Society and conference.
  • The future of biocuration and career paths.

Specific examples of what curators do are illustrated (~6:30min). A sample UniProt entry illustrates what kind of information is captured and where it appears. She also touches on their work with Gene Ontology. And a bit about the ecosystem of curation, how teams at different resources help each other but don’t wish to duplicate work, using HGNC nomenclature as an example.

About 8min, the skill sets for biocuration are covered: data basics, curation skills, programming and database concepts, ontologies, and usability of the data collected. This also includes data access and management, as well as dissemination and outreach. This includes user training (yay!) and the concepts of data analysis for users.

There’s no formal degree path for curation practitioners at this point, and different groups will have different needs. But the community is begining to think about this, and about professional qualifications. She also mentioned a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences press on the topic of the future workforce skills and needs (linked below). This is an alternative career route for people with science training, and it’s important to understand not only the science but computational pieces. And it should be taken seriously as a discipline. There is now a journal that reflects this (also linked below).

Claire also takes a look at the future of biocuration, using the Center for Target Validation (CTTV) as an example. And she talks about the importance of quality information in medical records as we increasingly have genomic details in diagnosis and treatment situations. If we want precision medicine to work, we have to have the precise and correct information in the databases. So respect and value the curators. They are worth it. And if you know anyone that deserves special recognition–nominate!

Quick links:

International Society for Biocuration:  http://biocuration.org/

Preparing the Workforce for Digital Curation: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18590/preparing-the-workforce-for-digital-curation 

References:

COMMITTEE ON FUTURE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR, & DIGITAL CURATION (2015). PREPARING THE WORKFORCE FOR DIGITAL CURATION National Academies Press : 10.17226/18590

Holliday, G., Bairoch, A., Bagos, P., Chatonnet, A., Craik, D., Finn, R., Henrissat, B., Landsman, D., Manning, G., Nagano, N., O’Donovan, C., Pruitt, K., Rawlings, N., Saier, M., Sowdhamini, R., Spedding, M., Srinivasan, N., Vriend, G., Babbitt, P., & Bateman, A. (2015). Key challenges for the creation and maintenance of specialist protein resources Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics, 83 (6), 1005-1013 DOI: 10.1002/prot.24803

Gaudet, P., Munoz-Torres, M., Robinson-Rechavi, M., Attwood, T., Bateman, A., Cherry, J., Kania, R., O’Donovan, C., & Yamasaki, C. (2013). DATABASE, The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation, is now the official journal of the International Society for Biocuration Database, 2013 DOI: 10.1093/database/bat077

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