Tag Archives: informal

Briefings in Bioinformatics – our education paper is available now

Back in April I happened to mention that we (OpenHelix) were writing a paper on informal sources of bioinformatics education (in a Friday SNPets item) and we were asked to announce when the paper came out. Well, we got word late last week that the article has been published. The article appears in a special issue of Briefings in Bioinformatics that is devoted to bioinformatics education. I’m not sure if all the articles in the issue are available yet, but it looks like several are in the journal’s Advanced Access area. Bioinformatics education is an area (obviously) that OpenHelix cares deeply about & we are anxiously awaiting our copies of the full issue so we can read all the articles, but I digress…

The title “OpenHelix: bioinformatics education outside of a different box” (if you hit a paywall, or have trouble accessing, we will gladly send a reprint. Just email the corresponding author, Jennifer listed in the abstract or ask from our contact link- Trey) was a cool suggestion from one of the article’s reviewers – my original title was much tamer (ok, more boring). Regardless of the final title, what we wanted to do in the article is to discuss informal sources of bioinformatics education. By education we do mean acquiring applicable information that allows a researcher to operate within the field of bioinformatics. By informal we mean outside of traditional, credit based classes and degrees. Essentially we provide a bit of the knowledge and know-how that we’ve gathered over years of working with hundreds of resources, thousands of workshop attendees, and countless online contacts about where a researcher, or librarian, or whoever can turn for various informational needs in the field of bioinformatics.

Our contention is that not everyone needs to program in order to manage and manipulate their biological data these days. There are SO many fine publicly available databases, algorithms, tools and more, it is just a matter of awareness and training for anyone to be able to reformat and analyze their personal data sets. We maintain that :

…bioinformatics education needs to do a minimum of four things:

1. raise awareness of the available resources
2. enable researchers to find and evaluate resource functionality
3. lower the barrier between awareness and use of a resource
4. support the continuing educational needs of regular resource users

In the paper we walk through each of these – we first describe example needs associated with the point, and then cover possible informal resources that meet the needs. The article includes tables of resources and links to them and many many references. We really hope that is a very useful resource in the field of bioinformatics education.  I am already looking forward to contributing to the next special education issue, both to hone my writing skills and to extend the information we can provide readers. Please do comment, email, whatever and let us know about the resources that you use, what you learned from the article, etc. Oh, here’s the citation info:
Williams, J., Mangan, M., Perreault-Micale, C., Lathe, S., Sirohi, N., & Lathe, W. (2010). OpenHelix: bioinformatics education outside of a different box Briefings in Bioinformatics DOI: 10.1093/bib/bbq026