I’ve been using Biostar for the last month and am finding it to be a great resource. Biostar is a Q&A space for genomics and bioinformatics questions. Currently, it is using ‘StackExchange‘, which is a community-driven Q&A forum. Today’s world in biology research was ripe for Biostar (we should know ;-).

The way Biostar works is that you get registered. Once registered you can ask or answer questions concerning bioinformatics or genomics. Questions and answers are rated and discussion can ensue. Questions are organized by tags and you can immediately see if they’ve been answered, how they were rated. Users are given points based on the number of questions and answers given, voting actions and more. This gives the user ‘reputation,’ this is a “rough estimation of how much the biostar community trusts you” as the faq says. The more reputation you receive, the more actions you can do in the community. For example, it takes no reputation to answer or ask, but more to vote, retag questions, etc.

So far the questions (there have been over 600 at the writing of this blog post) have ranged from the complex to straightforward. Some questions are about coding to perform a given bioinformatics task such as extracting sequence from 3GB Fasta file or how to get data from a database or resource. Often there are questions about where to find specific kinds of data. This question a couple weeks ago asked for “web resources to find cancer indication where a given gene is amplified.”  The answers given (including one from our own Mary :) resulted in some interesting resources such as Oncomine. I wasn’t able to try it out since it requires registration and/or subscription, but from the description given seems to be a useful resource. Between searching our database of publicly available databases for cancer-related and asking, a researcher should be able to find the right resource for their needs. Biostar seems to be a great fit for what we do at OpenHelix. Consider comparative genomics; one could use our search to find the right resources, then use  one of our tutorials to get a solid understanding of the resource and then for the more detailed how-to’s once they have the foundation, go to BioStar.

We are considering adding a “Biostar answer” of the week and integrating/linking more closely with Biostar in our WYP threads. We believe this will only enhance the OpenHelix blog’s mission to educate and outreach to researchers on genomics resources. Biostar has grown and matured quite well over the last few months from when I last read about it, I believe it’s developing into quite a nice community.

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