29 July 2016
This week we announce the establishment of an agreement to collaborate between EMBL-ABR and GOBLET. With a major part of our remit to develop quality training for life scientists in bioinformatics, biocuration, biocomputing and computational biology, this agreement is very welcome. Search for ‘goblet’ on the website for all related activities.
Based in the Netherlands as a not-for-profit foundation, GOBLET is the Global Organisation for Bioinformatics Learning, Education and Training . It was established to foster the international community of bioinformatics, biocuration, biocomputing and computational biology trainers, in part by providing an open, sustainable support structure for trainers and trainees. The foundation provides an umbrella under which international and national networks and societies can come together to discuss global training issues, to harmonise their efforts, share training materials, and work together more efficiently and productively to drive up the quality of ad hoc training courses and materials – ultimately, to professionalise training.
GOBLET came about because it was evident that while most of these organisations had interests in education and training, each had a similar problem: i.e., how to deliver tangible outcomes with limited funds and just a handful of (usually overstretched) volunteers. This situation drove the desire to address the problems on an international scale and in a concerted way, to avoid costly duplication of effort. Today, amongst the foundation’s priorities are the development of standards and guidelines for bioinformatics training, facilitation of bioinformatics capacity development in all countries (especially via its Train-the-Trainer initiative), and reaching out to high-school teachers to foster the next generation of bioinformaticians.
Why does it matter now?
GOBLET matters now for various reasons. In the past, acquiring bioinformatics skills has not been a priority for life scientists. This is perhaps inevitable – mastery of their discipline simply never used to require it. However, the last decade has seen this skills gap widen, as traditional degree programs have failed to keep pace with the inexorable transition towards ‘digital biology’.
Even though basic skills in data analysis and interpretation, and especially in data management (now sometimes termed ‘data science’ or ‘data stewardship’), have become essential, they are still taught relatively rarely in undergraduate courses. This becomes problematic when students who’ve taken such courses move on to postgraduate degrees without having received adequate foundations in computational science: the full magnitude of the gulf between data analysis theory and real-life practice then becomes evident, and has an immediate impact on the advancement of their research projects. At this point, having generated their data, and realising that they don’t have the requisite skills to analyse them, many of these individuals seek bioinformatics training.
From worldwide surveys conducted by GOBLET, it’s clear that this isn’t an isolated phenomenon, but is a scenario that’s playing out across the world, fuelling a global demand for bioinformatics education and training. This demand brings with it a need for more individuals capable of delivering specialised training to local communities. Academic tutors, even those with computational or statistical backgrounds, often struggle to deliver effective point-of-need training: they may, for example, have no experience in particular niche-specific topics, or may find it hard to re-mould their large semestered programs into short, highly-focused courses.
This situation argues for the development of programs tailored for future trainers, to disseminate best practice, to empower new cohorts of individuals to assuage local training needs, and to ensure that trainers’ skills are kept up to date. For this reason, GOBLET is developing and beginning to deliver specialised workshops for new and more experienced trainers (Train-the-Trainer workshops), covering not just the specific bioinformatics topics to be taught, but also the principles important in providing robust training.
With its worldwide membership, GOBLET was thus established at an opportune time, and now has an important role to play in addressing some of these burning, global training issues, whether through further development of its portal, creation and dissemination of best-practice guidelines, providing guidance on training choices, or through its trainer-support activities.
Who is it for?
GOBLET was created to provide a focal point and support network for trainers and trainees in the inter-related disciplines of bioinformatics, biocomputing, biocuration and computational biology. A key mission of the foundation is to promote links and cooperation across the world amongst both organisations and individuals with an interest in training. At an organisational level, it is relevant for societies, networks, institutes, research groups, consortia, corporations, etc., while at an individual level, it is relevant for group leaders, postdocs, course organisers, students and so on, whether they have a need for bioinformatics training or a desire to improve their training skills.
How is it relevant to bioinformatics in Australia?
GOBLET is highly relevant to bioinformatics in Australia, as it represents a direct connection to best practices in a variety of areas, including distance learning and online resources for trainers and educators. It is also an ideal forum for discussing and sharing mechanisms for capturing learning impact and intake, and for evaluating distance versus short-course training for post-graduates. Several members of GOBLET are involved in bioinformatics at a national level, including how to scale up training efforts, and we can learn from their experiences. GOBLET will also facilitate awareness, helping to expose the international community to Australian expertise and bioinformatics education and training resources.
How can I get involved?
There are various ways to get involved with GOBLET. One way is to become a contributor to the training portal, which currently provides an open repository of course pages and training materials, and a registry of trainers . To contribute training resources, anyone is free to register to create a ‘contributor account’ . Alternatively, you may join GOBLET as a member . Being a member allows you to become directly involved in GOBLET’s work, either by signing up to its committees or by running for an officer role.
Where can I get more information?
When and where is the next Annual General Meeting (AGM)?
The 2016 GOBLET AGM will be held from 7-9 November in Brisbane (AU), with associated workshops planned from 3-4 November. This year’s event will be held in conjunction with the 2nd annual conference of the Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society (ABACBS) at the Queensland University of Technology.
- Attwood, T.K., Bongcam-Rudloff, E., Brazas, M.D., Corpas, M., Gaudet, P., Lewitter, F., Mulder, N., Palagi, P.M., Schneider, M.V. , van Gelder, C.W.G. (2015). GOBLET: The Global Organisation for Bioinformatics Learning, Education and Training. PLoS Comput Biol., 11(4), e1004143.
- Corpas, M., Jimenez, R.C., Bongcam-Rudloff, E., Budd, A., Brazas, M.D., Fernandes, P.L., Gaeta, B., van Gelder, C., Korpelainen, E., Lewitter, F., McGrath, A., MacLean, , Palagi, P.M., Rother, K., Taylor, J., Via, A., Watson, M., Schneider, M.V. and Attwood, T.K. (2015). The GOBLET training portal: a global repository of bioinformatics training materials, courses and trainers. Bioinformatics, 31(1), 140-2.