Key steps towards building bioinformatics capacity worldwide

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29 Oct 2019

Key steps towards building bioinformatics capacity worldwide

Highlights of the RDA Europe Ambassadorial work in the area of Bioinformatics 

The rapid growth in the volume and diversity of biological data promise a better understanding of the basic biological processes. But to analyse these data and transform this information into new insights, life science researches need new skills in data manipulation, computer science and statistics. There is a growing demand all around the world for training in data management, large scale analysis, machine learning or data visualisation.


The ELIXIR Training Platform is one of the initiatives that have risen to meet this need and is working with global partners including the RDA and CODATA to build bioinformatics capacity on a global scale and make sure the right training programmes are in place for researchers.

Recently it has partnered with H3ABioNet and GOBLET to organise the Advanced Bioinformatics Workshop, which extends the annual Research Data Science Summer School in Trieste, Italy, held by Research Data Alliance (RDA) and the Committee on Data of the International Council of Science (CODATA). The first such event took place in 2018, followed by the second edition this year in August.

The 2019 edition of the workshop covered topics such as Machine Learning in bioinformatics, metagenomics pipelines or experimental design and attracted 19 participants from four continents. Thanks to travel grants offered by CODATA to researchers from low- and middle-income countries, many of the participants came from African or Asian countries. 

Fotis Psomopoulos (INAB|CERTH), the workshop coordinator, instructor from ELIXIR Greece and RDA Europe Ambassador for Bioinformatics said:


The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. As our workshop extends the CODATA-RDA Summer School curriculum, we know the participants will have the basic skills in data wrangling and programming. We can therefore focus on advanced techniques for analysing life science data.  


It's equally important to keep the training materials open to everyone, so the participants can consult them any time after the event and share them with their colleagues. Open access training materials also help to build the training capacity right where it's needed.

The materials developed by Fotis Psomopoulos and his colleagues  have been already re-used at a Machine Learning workshop organised in collaboration with ELIXIR Switzerland during the BC2 conference in Basel in September. They will be reused again at another training workshop, held as part of the ISCB Africa ASBCB 2019 Conference in Kumasi, Ghana, in November 2019. Although ELIXIR will not be involved in the delivery of the training, its links with H3ABioNet and GOBLET make it easier to exchange and re-use different training materials and build bioinformatics training capacity around the world.

The training materials for the Bioinformatics workshop are available online via the course website

Amel Ghouila, Maria Tsagiopoulou, Phelelani Thokozani Mpangase, Scott Hazelhurst, & Fotis E. Psomopoulos. (2019, September 1). ELIXIR / CODATA-RDA Research Data Science Advanced Workshop on Bioinformatics (Version v1.0.0). Zenodo. 

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