EMBL-ABR network: an interview with Dieter Bulach

Dieter Bulach is the newly appointed EMBL-ABR Activity Lead for Prokaryotes Bioinformatics. He is part of the EMBL-ABR: Melbourne Bioinformatics (formerly VLSCI) Node based at the University of Melbourne where he also works on a range of public health projects at the Peter Doherty Institute. Dieter specialises in both microbiology and bioinformatics, working on several major projects dealing with viruses and bacteria, especially pathogens.

Dr Dieter Bulach

Dr Dieter Bulach

October 2016

 

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What is bioinformatics for you and why it does it matter?

Bioinformatics for me is analysis of DNA sequence from bacteria and viruses – just a very small part of a very broad field. The diminishing cost of sequencing and the rapidly expanding public data resources are changing the way we do microbiology, enabling scientists to be much more strategic about the allocation of their ‘wet lab’ resources.

What are the challenges you see for life scientists / medical researchers in the data driven science era?

Ensuring that scientists have access to these data resources, that there is greater recognition of the value of these resources in and researchers are capable of using them.

Would you say this is different for actual bioinformaticians? Do they face different challenges?

For bioinformaticians, it is that our knowledge of data resources and analysis methods as well as our strategies for discovery are recognised as an important core contribution to research – not merely a service to research. Our discipline needs to contribute to establishing good protocols for storing and providing ongoing access to data to ensure researchers can see the value we add in making that data from a broad range of sources easily accessed and efficiently used.

What is open data, and what does it mean to you?

Open data is publicly available and easily accessible data. Data that should be part of the ‘open data’  resources are those basic datasets that enable the work in a research publication to be reproduced. Domain specific public/open data resources dictate the best way the data should be published into the open data environment to make it accessible. In time – data might be ‘published’ as soon as it is generated, that is now emerging as a way of initiating collaborations.

What is currently missing in the field of bioinformatics AND life sciences?

The need for a ‘critical mass’ community and national resources for bioinformatics has been a recognised necessity since the early 1990s (ANGIS). It is still an absolute necessity – I hope that EMBL-ABR can grow to meet this national requirement.

It is early days yet, but what would you like to see EMBL-ABR become, achieve?

A partner/broker in research that plays a key role in ensuring the competitiveness of Australian research through EMBL-ABR being a local, accessible organisation that is taking a ‘world’s best practice’ approach to bioinformatics.

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Biosketch: Dieter Bulach is a graduate of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne and has broad experience in Molecular Microbiology, as well as bacterial and viral genomics. Dieter is a Senior Research Scientist at the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI), the host node for the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Australia Bioinformatics Resource (EMBL-ABR). Dieter is involved in a variety of microbial genomics projects with local collaborators at Melbourne, Monash and Federation Universities, and international collaborators at the University of Warwick (UK), Mahidol University (Thailand) and Kuwait University (Kuwait). Dieter’s major, current time commitment is at the Australian Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory (MDUPHL) based at the Peter Doherty Institute, working on a project that is implementing microbial genomics techniques and tools in public health microbiology practice. Dieter has been involved with public health and risk management for several years through his involvement in the Biosecurity CRC (2007-2012) and his current role at the Peter Doherty Institute (2014-present). 

Dieter’s role as EMBL-ABR Activity Lead for Prokaryotes Bioinformatics is one of many activities being led out of our Nodes under the coordination of the Hub. Link here for more information about this growing network.