How is biostatistics education failing to meet the needs of basic scientists, and what can we do to fix this? This Perspective discusses strategies for making biostatistics an integral part of postgraduate and continuing education for basic scientists, ensuring that courses teach the specific skills needed to design, analyze, and critically evaluate basic science research.
Not so long ago, DNA sequencing required massive equipment and lots of time and money. Now, relatively cheap, pocket-sized devices are on the verge of giving real-time sequencing abilities to the masses. These so-called nanopore sequencers, produced so far by a single company, have suffered from poor accuracy. But this month, researchers reported that the instruments passed an important field test, conducting on-the-spot sequencing of viruses isolated from patients during last year's Ebola epidemic in West Africa. In the lab, meanwhile, other researchers are tweaking sample preparation and data analysis to boost the devices' accuracy and speed. Real-time analyses of pathogens and the rest of life are within reach, they say. Ecologists, public health officials, epidemiologists, food safety officials, and many others may reap the benefits. Some researchers predict that one day these sequencers will be in every lab and even in everyone's pocket, like mobile phones.
The funding climate is “the worst in 20 years,” says Helena Nader, president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC). Herculano-Houzel is even more pessimistic: “Brazilian science is bankrupt.”
Peer review is an institution of enormous importance for the careers of scientists and the content of published science. The decisions of gatekeepers—editors and peer reviewers—legitimize scientific findings, distribute professional rewards, and influence future research. However, appropriate data to gauge the quality of gatekeeper decision-making in science has rarely been made publicly available. Our research tracks the popularity of rejected and accepted manuscripts at three elite medical journals. We found that editors and reviewers generally made good decisions regarding which manuscripts to promote and reject. However, many highly cited articles were surprisingly rejected. Our research suggests that evaluative strategies that increase the mean quality of published science may also increase the risk of rejecting unconventional or outstanding work.
One of the major hurdles I face as the head of a computational biology laboratory is convincing my research team—particularly those pursuing exclusively mathematical and computational modeling—that they need to keep a laboratory notebook. There seems to be a misconception in the computational biology community that a lab notebook is only useful for recording experimental protocols and their results. A lab notebook is much more than that. It is an organizational tool and memory aid, which serves as the primary record of scientific research and activity for all scientists. It also serves as a legal record of ownership of the ideas and results obtained by a scientist. Here, I present the best practices (summarized as ten rules) for keeping a lab notebook in computational biology, for scientists pursuing exclusively “dry” research.
Article-level metric (ALM) data need to be secure and reliable if they are to be trusted and used by all. This Perspective explores the different approaches taken by two organizations to establish ALM data integrity.
Bioinformatics is a fast-growing interdisciplinary field in which the demand for quality education exceeds the supply, especially in developing regions and countries. A massive open online course (MOOC) is a new model for education that delivers videotaped lectures and other course materials over the Internet for all interested persons around the globe to learn for free. Here we present our MOOC “Bioinformatics: Introduction and Methods,” which is the second bioinformatics MOOC in the world and one of the first batch of seven MOOCs from China. In the first two runs of this bilingual MOOC, more than 30,000 students with diverse backgrounds registered from 110 countries and regions. In this manuscript, we present the content design of the MOOC, the demographic profiles and learning patterns of the students, the requirement for English support, and feedback from on-campus students. We offer a few suggestions to other scientists who may be interested in creating a MOOC. We also remember the S* course, a successful open online bioinformatics course that ran from 2001 to 2007, long before the current wave of MOOCs. We believe that MOOC education has great potential to enhance global bioinformatics education.
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