With the advent of YouTube channels in bioinformatics, open platforms for problem solving in bioinformatics, active web forums in computing analyses and online resources for learning to code or use a bioinformatics tool, the more traditional continuing education bioinformatics training programs have had to adapt. Bioinformatics training programs that solely rely on traditional didactic methods are being superseded by these newer resources. Yet such face-to-face instruction is still invaluable in the learning continuum. Bioinformatics.ca, which hosts the Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops, has blended more traditional learning styles with current online and social learning styles. Here we share our growing experiences over the past 12 years and look toward what the future holds for bioinformatics training programs.
continuing education; bioinformatics; online learning; massive open online courses (MOOCs)
“Scientific community” refers to a group of people collaborating together on scientific-research-related activities who also share common goals, interests, and values. Such communities play a key role in many bioinformatics activities. Communities may be linked to a specific location or institute, or involve people working at many different institutions and locations. Education and training is typically an important component of these communities, providing a valuable context in which to develop skills and expertise, while also strengthening links and relationships within the community. Scientific communities facilitate: (i) the exchange and development of ideas and expertise; (ii) career development; (iii) coordinated funding activities; (iv) interactions and engagement with professionals from other fields; and (v) other activities beneficial to individual participants, communities, and the scientific field as a whole. It is thus beneficial at many different levels to understand the general features of successful, high-impact bioinformatics communities; how individual participants can contribute to the success of these communities; and the role of education and training within these communities. We present here a quick guide to building and maintaining a successful, high-impact bioinformatics community, along with an overview of the general benefits of participating in such communities. This article grew out of contributions made by organizers, presenters, panelists, and other participants of the ISMB/ECCB 2013 workshop “The ‘How To Guide’ for Establishing a Successful Bioinformatics Network” at the 21st Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) and the 12th European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB).
Funding bodies are increasingly recognizing the need to provide graduates and researchers with access to short intensive courses in a variety of disciplines, in order both to improve the general skills base and to provide solid foundations on which researchers may build their careers. In response to the development of ‘high-throughput biology’, the need for training in the field of bioinformatics, in particular, is seeing a resurgence: it has been defined as a key priority by many Institutions and research programmes and is now an important component of many grant proposals. Nevertheless, when it comes to planning and preparing to meet such training needs, tension arises between the reward structures that predominate in the scientific community which compel individuals to publish or perish, and the time that must be devoted to the design, delivery and maintenance of high-quality training materials. Conversely, there is much relevant teaching material and training expertise available worldwide that, were it properly organized, could be exploited by anyone who needs to provide training or needs to set up a new course. To do this, however, the materials would have to be centralized in a database and clearly tagged in relation to target audiences, learning objectives, etc. Ideally, they would also be peer reviewed, and easily and efficiently accessible for downloading. Here, we present the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN), a new enterprise that has been initiated to address these needs and review it, respectively, to similar initiatives and collections.
Bioinformatics; training; end users; bioinformatics courses; learning bioinformatics
Summary: Rapid technological advances have led to an explosion of biomedical data in recent years. The pace of change has inspired new collaborative approaches for sharing materials and resources to help train life scientists both in the use of cutting-edge bioinformatics tools and databases and in how to analyse and interpret large datasets. A prototype platform for sharing such training resources was recently created by the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN). Building on this work, we have created a centralized portal for sharing training materials and courses, including a catalogue of trainers and course organizers, and an announcement service for training events. For course organizers, the portal provides opportunities to promote their training events; for trainers, the portal offers an environment for sharing materials, for gaining visibility for their work and promoting their skills; for trainees, it offers a convenient one-stop shop for finding suitable training resources and identifying relevant training events and activities locally and worldwide.
Availability and implementation:
The mountains of data thrusting from the new landscape of modern high-throughput biology are irrevocably changing biomedical research and creating a near-insatiable demand for training in data management and manipulation and data mining and analysis. Among life scientists, from clinicians to environmental researchers, a common theme is the need not just to use, and gain familiarity with, bioinformatics tools and resources but also to understand their underlying fundamental theoretical and practical concepts. Providing bioinformatics training to empower life scientists to handle and analyse their data efficiently, and progress their research, is a challenge across the globe. Delivering good training goes beyond traditional lectures and resource-centric demos, using interactivity, problem-solving exercises and cooperative learning to substantially enhance training quality and learning outcomes. In this context, this article discusses various pragmatic criteria for identifying training needs and learning objectives, for selecting suitable trainees and trainers, for developing and maintaining training skills and evaluating training quality. Adherence to these criteria may help not only to guide course organizers and trainers on the path towards bioinformatics training excellence but, importantly, also to improve the training experience for life scientists.
bioinformatics; training; bioinformatics courses; training life scientists; train the trainers
Summary: We present iAnn, an open source community-driven platform for dissemination of life science events, such as courses, conferences and workshops. iAnn allows automatic visualisation and integration of customised event reports. A central repository lies at the core of the platform: curators add submitted events, and these are subsequently accessed via web services. Thus, once an iAnn widget is incorporated into a website, it permanently shows timely relevant information as if it were native to the remote site. At the same time, announcements submitted to the repository are automatically disseminated to all portals that query the system. To facilitate the visualization of announcements, iAnn provides powerful filtering options and views, integrated in Google Maps and Google Calendar. All iAnn widgets are freely available.
The 2012 Bioinformatics Links Directory update marks the 10th special Web Server issue from Nucleic Acids Research. Beginning with content from their 2003 publication, the Bioinformatics Links Directory in collaboration with Nucleic Acids Research has compiled and published a comprehensive list of freely accessible, online tools, databases and resource materials for the bioinformatics and life science research communities. The past decade has exhibited significant growth and change in the types of tools, databases and resources being put forth, reflecting both technology changes and the nature of research over that time. With the addition of 90 web server tools and 12 updates from the July 2012 Web Server issue of Nucleic Acids Research, the Bioinformatics Links Directory at http://bioinformatics.ca/links_directory/ now contains an impressive 134 resources, 455 databases and 1205 web server tools, mirroring the continued activity and efforts of our field.
The Bioinformatics Links Directory continues its collaboration with Nucleic Acids Research to collaboratively publish and compile a freely accessible, online collection of tools, databases and resource materials for bioinformatics and molecular biology research. The July 2011 Web Server issue of Nucleic Acids Research adds an additional 78 web server tools and 14 updates to the directory at http://bioinformatics.ca/links_directory/.
The Links Directory at Bioinformatics.ca continues its collaboration with Nucleic Acids Research to jointly publish and compile a freely accessible, online collection of tools, databases and resource materials for bioinformatics and molecular biology research. The July 2010 Web Server issue of Nucleic Acids Research adds an additional 115 web server tools and 7 updates to the directory at http://bioinformatics.ca/links_directory/, bringing the total number of servers listed close to an impressive 1500 links. The Bioinformatics Links Directory represents an excellent community resource for locating bioinformatic tools and databases to aid one’s research, and in this context bioinformatic education needs and initiatives are discussed. A complete list of all links featured in this Nucleic Acids Research 2010 Web Server issue can be accessed online at http://bioinformatics.ca/links_directory/narweb2010/. The 2010 update of the Bioinformatics Links Directory, which includes the Web Server list and summaries, is also available online at the Nucleic Acids Research website, http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/.
All of the life science research web servers published in this and previous issues of Nucleic Acids Research, together with other useful tools, databases and resources for bioinformatics and molecular biology research are freely accessible online through the Bioinformatics Links Directory, http://bioinformatics.ca/links_directory/. Entirely dependent on user feedback and community input, the Bioinformatics Links Directory exemplifies an open access research tool and resource. With 112 websites featured in the July 2009 Web Server Issue of Nucleic Acids Research, the 2009 update brings the total number of servers listed in the Bioinformatics Links Directory close to an impressive 1400 links. A complete list of all links listed in this Nucleic Acids Research 2009 Web Server Issue can be accessed online at http://bioinfomatics.ca/links_directory/narweb2009/. The 2009 update of the Bioinformatics Links Directory, which includes the Web Server list and summaries, is also available online at the Nucleic Acids Research website, http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/.
In addition to exhibiting swimming and twitching motility, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is able to swarm on semisolid (viscous) surfaces. Recent studies have indicated that swarming is a more complex type of motility influenced by a large number of different genes. To investigate the adaptation process involved in swarming motility, gene expression profiles were analyzed by performing microarrays on bacteria from the leading edge of a swarm zone compared to bacteria growing in identical medium under swimming conditions. Major shifts in gene expression patterns were observed under swarming conditions, including, among others, the overexpression of a large number of virulence-related genes such as those encoding the type III secretion system and its effectors, those encoding extracellular proteases, and those associated with iron transport. In addition, swarming cells exhibited adaptive antibiotic resistance against polymyxin B, gentamicin, and ciprofloxacin compared to what was seen for their planktonic (swimming) counterparts. By analyzing a large subset of up-regulated genes, we were able to show that two virulence genes, lasB and pvdQ, were required for swarming motility. These results clearly favored the conclusion that swarming of P. aeruginosa is a complex adaptation process in response to a viscous environment resulting in a substantial change in virulence gene expression and antibiotic resistance.
The Bioinformatics Links Directory, http://bioinformatics.ca/links_directory/, is an online resource for public access to all of the life science research web servers published in this and previous issues of Nucleic Acids Research, together with other useful tools, databases and resources for bioinformatics and molecular biology research. Dependent on community input and development, the Bioinformatics Links Directory exemplifies an open access research tool and resource. The 2008 update includes the 94 web servers featured in the July 2008 Web Server issue of Nucleic Acids Research, bringing the total number of servers listed in the Bioinformatics Links Directory to over 1200 links. A complete list of all links listed in this Nucleic Acids Research 2008 Web Server issue can be accessed online at http://bioinfomatics.ca/links_directory/narweb2008/. The 2008 update of the Bioinformatics Links Directory, which includes the Web Server list and summaries, is also available online at the Nucleic Acids Research website, http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/.
With few novel antimicrobials in the pharmaceutical pipeline, resistance to the current selection of antibiotics represents a significant therapeutic challenge. Microbial persistence in subinhibitory antibiotic environments has been proposed to contribute to the development of resistance. Pseudomonas aeruginosa cultures pretreated with subinhibitory concentrations of ciprofloxacin were found to exhibit an adaptive resistance phenotype when cultures were subsequently exposed to suprainhibitory ciprofloxacin concentrations. Microarray experiments revealed candidate genes involved in such adaptive resistance. Screening of 10,000 Tn5-luxCDABE mutants identified several mutants with increased or decreased ciprofloxacin susceptibilities, including mutants in PA1803, a close homolog of the ATP-dependent lon protease, which were found to exhibit ≥4-fold-increased susceptibilities to ciprofloxacin and other fluoroquinolones, but not to gentamicin or imipenem, as well as a characteristic elongated morphology. Complementation of the lon mutant restored wild-type antibiotic susceptibility and cell morphology. Expression of the lon mutant, as monitored through a luciferase reporter fusion, was found to increase over time in the presence of subinhibitory ciprofloxacin concentrations. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that the induction of Lon by ciprofloxacin is involved in adaptive resistance.
When grown in divalent cation-limited medium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa becomes resistant to cationic antimicrobial peptides and polymyxin B. This resistance is regulated by the PhoP-PhoQ and PmrA-PmrB two-component regulatory systems. To further characterize Mg2+ regulation in P. aeruginosa, microarray transcriptional profiling was conducted to compare wild-type P. aeruginosa grown under Mg2+-limited and Mg2+-replete conditions to isogenic phoP and pmrA mutants grown under Mg2+-limited conditions. Under Mg2+-limited conditions (0.02 mM Mg2+), approximately 3% of the P. aeruginosa genes were differentially expressed compared to the expression in bacteria grown under Mg2+-replete conditions (2 mM Mg2+). Only a modest subset of the Mg2+-regulated genes were regulated through either PhoP or PmrA. To determine which genes were directly regulated, a bioinformatic search for conserved binding motifs was combined with confirmatory reverse transcriptase PCR and gel shift promoter binding assays, and the results indicated that very few genes were directly regulated by these response regulators. It was found that in addition to the previously known oprH-phoP-phoQ operon and the pmrHFIJKLM-ugd operon, the PA0921 and PA1343 genes, encoding small basic proteins, were regulated by Mg2+ in a PhoP-dependent manner. The number of known PmrA-regulated genes was expanded to include the PA1559-PA1560, PA4782-PA4781, and feoAB operons, in addition to the previously known PA4773-PA4775-pmrAB and pmrHFIJKLM-ugd operons.
With few novel antimicrobials in development, resistance to the current selection of antibiotics increasingly encroaches on our ability to control microbial infections. One limitation in our understanding of the basis of the constraints on current therapies is our poor understanding of antibiotic interactions with bacteria on a global scale. Custom DNA microarrays were used to characterize the response of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone commonly used in therapy against chronic infections by this intrinsically resistant bacterium. Of the approximately 5,300 open reading frames (ORFs) on the array, 941 genes showed statistically significant (P ≤ 0.05) differential expression in response to 0.3× MIC of ciprofloxacin; 554 were promoted and 387 were repressed. Most striking among the responsive genes was the region between PA0613 and PA0648, which codes for the bacteriophage-like R2/F2 pyocins. In this region, virtually every ORF was increased by 0.3× MIC of ciprofloxacin and even more dramatically up-regulated (7- to 19-fold) following treatment with 1× MIC of ciprofloxacin. Pyocin gene expression was confirmed with lux reporter mutants and real-time PCR studies; pyocin-like particles were also present in transmission electron micrographs of supernatants from cells treated with 1× MIC of ciprofloxacin. Interestingly, mutants in this region exhibited ≥8-fold-increased resistance to ciprofloxacin and other fluoroquinolones, demonstrating that this region is a susceptibility determinant. Since this region is known to be variably present in the genomes of clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa (R. K. Ernst et al., Environ. Microbiol. 5:1341-1349, 2003, and M. C. Wolfgang et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100:8484-8489, 2003), these findings demonstrate that the R2/F2 pyocin region is a “loaded gun” that can mediate fluoroquinolone susceptibility in P. aeruginosa.