Bioinformaticians in the service of bench biologists

Stumbled out of bed to the feed reader and came close to spraying cereal over the screen when I read this exchange on a Nature Network blog:

Original post:

Like them or loathe them, it’s not really possible to analyze a genome-wide screen without a large number of [Excel spreadsheets]

Comment #1 from our Pierre:

Oh please, please, please, no, don’t that with excel, please

He’s quite right, of course. Unfortunately, the ensuing debate is heading down a familiar track: “that’s all very well for you hardcore computer types, but we’re just simple bench biologists”.

Well look – a lot of us “computer types” were, or are, bench biologists too. We weren’t born with magical computer skills, nor did we learn them overnight. We know what we know and recommend it to others not out of geekiness or snobbery, but because we believe that if there’s a better way to perform a task, we owe it to ourselves to learn it. If others can’t make that commitment, we’re more than happy to help out and share what we’ve learned.

Just be prepared to meet us half-way, OK?

Does bioinformatics have protocols?

Continuing with my “get involved at Nature Network” theme: Bronwen Dekker has started a thread in the bioinformatics forum. She is interested in compiling protocols for bioinformatics and is looking for a way into the seemingly-infinite mass of available software tools.

I’ve posted a few thoughts there concerning workflows, categories of data and whether bioinformatics even has protocols in the traditional sense. I think that this is an important topic, so go there and contribute to the discussion if you can.

Ask a bioinformatician?

Admins of the Bioinformatics group at Nature Network received an email from Corie Lok today:

Just wanted to let you know that membership of your bioinformatics group has broken 400, making it by far the biggest group on Nature Network! Congratulations.

With such a large membership, I thought the time is right to do something in the group to stimulate more discussion in the group’s forum. Do you have any thoughts on how we can do that? What kinds of conversations lend themselves to an online forum that would be important for bioinformaticians? Are there any key people in the field, or authors of recent important papers, that the 400 group members would want to talk to in the forum? Perhaps we can invite them to join the forum, say a few words, and then offer to answer people’s questions on a specific topic.

I like this idea. If you have any suggestions or other thoughts on how to stimulate discussion at NN, visit the group, let Corie know or leave a comment here.