While attending the STAMPS ARTC program at the Marine Biological Laboratory, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of researchers. Despite our differences in research focus, a unifying theme of bioinformatics connected our objectives. Working together, we were able to tackle complex challenges in each other's fields. I was inspired by this experience and recognized the potential for bioinformatics to bridge the gap in interdisciplinary communication and foster collaboration.
I created BioInform to extend the synergistic environment I experienced at the MBL. As the field of bioinformatics rapidly expands and reaches across scientific disciplines, BioInform aims to serve as a hub for uniting communities and expanding a global network of scientists.
The objective of Bioinform is to provide a community platform that promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and access to educational resources through the lens of bioinformatics. This is implemented through four initiatives within BioInform: the Educational Resource Center, Literature Corner, Expert Advice, and the Ambassador Program.
- Educational Resource Center. The open-access nature of bioinformatics has created a vast reservoir of educational resources. However, the abundance of resources can make it challenging to identify the most suitable tool for a specific task. To address this challenge, the educational resource center at BioInform offers a curated collection of tried-and-tested educational resources, making it easier and faster for individuals to find the tool they need and discover new ones.
- Literature Corner. In the Literature Corner, users can delve into a rotating selection of peer-reviewed articles and personal stories, selected to showcase the diverse range of bioinformatics applications. We aim to inform readers about the latest developments in bioinformatics-related research, showcase new dimensions of bioinformatics and highlight the voices and perspectives of researchers from all backgrounds.
- Expert Advice. The Expert Advice initiative features interviews with experts in bioinformatics research as well as students and professionals using bioinformatics in their day-to-day work. The aim of this is to offer valuable advice to individuals interested in pursuing careers in bioinformatics and provide them with insights into the field.
- Ambassador Program. The Ambassador program extends BioInform’s mission beyond the website and encourages individuals to facilitate collaboration and communication in their local communities. Ambassadors are individuals who are passionate about science communication. We want to encourage diversity and inclusion within the ambassador program and welcome individuals at any level of bioinformatics knowledge. Roles of Ambassadors engaged in the program include the following but are not limited to:
- Hosting interdepartmental working groups and mixers at their home institution, bringing together a diversity of ideas to spark new collaborations.
- Leading dynamic and thought-provoking discussions within their department, fostering a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.
- Attending virtual BioInform meetings to connect with other passionate individuals from around the world and explore cutting-edge developments in the field of bioinformatics.
- Contribute their unique perspectives and insights to the BioInform website, helping to grow its mission of promoting open-access STEM education and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Significant Results, Outcomes, and Impacts
Through developing BioInform, we have planted a seed that will continue to grow in its impact over time. We are excited to watch this project grow from its launch in April and have already witnessed BioInform’s impact across local communities.
After researching and evaluating 50 different open-access resources, the Educational Resources Center published ten reviewed resources. Our rigorous evaluation process reflects our commitment to publishing only the best bioinformatics resources. We also decided to not include any paid educational materials in alliance with our value that bioinformatics should be available to anyone, regardless of income.
The Literature Corner highlighted 5 peer-review papers and will continue to highlight five new papers each month. For our first month since launching, we decided to highlight articles related to bioinformatics and the rise of open-access education since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, each month will be dedicated to featuring literature that highlights a different topic within bioinformatics.
BioInform has secured interviews with two pioneering minds in bioinformatics and one graduate student to be highlighted on the Expert Advice page of the website. We are continually reaching out to experts, students, and professionals in bioinformatics and are optimistic that our number of interviews will increase following BioInform’s April launch.
The Ambassador Program launched with the website in April, and we were so excited to welcome our first class of Ambassadors in Spring 2023! This inaugural class of Ambassadors consists of four individuals from graduate universities, undergraduate institutions, and professional institutions. Combined they represent two US states and four scientific disciplines, and each brings a set of unique experiences and perspectives to the BioInform team. Each of our Ambassadors hosted an informal discussion at their home institution where they engaged students and faculty in the topic of interdisciplinary collaboration. We also hosted one virtual meeting with all four Ambassadors and discussed potential improvements for the BioInform website.
After one month since launching BioInform, we are excited by the growth we’ve made and the potential for growth in the months and years ahead. We will continue to be motivated by the collaborative environment that is the MBL, and dedicated to strengthening interdepartmental collaboration and open-access education.