January 8, 2008

ISTL on bioinformatics

The latest ISTL is out with a couple of articles on bioinformatics:

  • "See a Need, Fill a Need" -- Reaching Out to the Bioinformatics Research Community at Iowa State University by Andrea L. Dinkelman
    This article describes my efforts in organizing the "National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) Field Guide" workshop in March 2006 and four NCBI mini-courses in April 2007 at Iowa State University. It also includes an overview of academic libraries that are providing bioinformatics support and summarizes library involvement in hosting NCBI courses. A discussion of how hosting the NCBI courses has influenced my collection development, instruction, and liaison activities and suggestions to librarians about how to get involved with bioinformatics is also included.

  • Entrez and BLAST: Precision and Recall in Searches of NCBI Databases by Tina O'Grady
    This project analyzes the results of searches for genes and proteins in the NCBI databases Gene, RefSeq RNA and RefSeq Protein. Corresponding searches were performed using the search programs Entrez and BLAST, and search recall and precision were calculated. The findings demonstrate the different types of result sets that can be expected from using different search programs and settings. Also, some unexpected results indicate that the default search settings are not optimal for all searches; an important aspect of searching which information professionals should remember and communicate to researchers.

Both these articles are valuable and interesting, particularly the Dinkelman article because it can easily function as a solid introduction on how to serve a bioinformatics research community. And bioinformatics is certainly a discipline where the plethora of resources and databases can be overwhelming and confusing. Of course, I would have liked to see more on the data mining and computing side of the bioinformatics multidisciplinary mosaic, but I guess those areas would be enough for another article on it's own.

I also think that these articles (and ISTL in general) serve as good reminders of what functions the journal literature can serve in an era where the action always seems to be in the blogosphere: striking a balance between timeliness and comprehensiveness, reporting on significant research projects.

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