A partnership between the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), the Universities of Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford, The Sainsbury Laboratory and TGAC with BGI and its open-access journal, GigaScience, has received funding from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC) to support the sharing of data and analyses in metabolomics.
Metabolomics involves the detection and quantification of small molecules (metabolites) in living organisms using mass spectrometers. The measurements made from these sophisticated instruments are analysed using computational programs to determine the abundances of metabolites, the results of which can provide an indication of an organism’s cellular condition and health. These data can be stored and shared through public databases such as MetaboLights, which launched in 2012. However, data sharing is not yet keeping pace with the publication of scientific papers in metabolomics.
The award of £30,000 from the BBSRC will enable the consortium to host training workshops to support scientists in the UK and China in managing and sharing their metabolomics data and analyses. Such computational skills have been highlighted by the BBSRC as being essential for furthering the impact of science on society and the economy. The consortium will work with Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry, ELIXIR and the Galaxy Project: four international networks dedicated to building computational and bioinformatics skills capacity.
Dr Peter Li, Data Organisation Manager at GigaScience, commented, “This funding will enable a synergistic exchange of our experience in data curation and publication with the expertise in metabolomics teaching provided by our UK-based partners.” He continued, “Bioinformatics education is of great interest to BGI as a channel of communicating how science can be performed in an open manner which we are promoting in GigaScience.”
Dr Christoph Steinbeck of EMBL-EBI added, “There is already a lot of commitment in metabolomics research community to data sharing and reuse – our main challenge is simply in training people how best to incorporate this into their regular working practices. The BBSRC has recognised that this area of molecular biology is growing more quickly than any other, and that we need to do everything we can to train and support scientists in sharing data. That will lead to better quality data, more efficient research and shorter time to discovery.”
Dr Vicky Schneider, Head of 361⁰ Division (Scientific Training, Education & Learning) at TGAC, said: “In partnership with GigaScience and BGI, we aim to revive the sharing of metabolomics data in the UK and internationally. TGAC will play a pivotal role in facilitating the provision of informatics training for scientists to curate and share data in metabolomics to enhance its value in the global research community.”
The consortium is funded by the UK’s BBSRC under its China Partnering Award programme.