A Flock of Bird Data Comes to Roost

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In the long history of humankind (and animal kind too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

—Attributed to Charles Darwin

In 1839 Charles Darwin published his famous account of the 5-year second voyage of the HMS Beagle, describing the flora and fauna he encountered surveying South America and circumnavigating the globe, including the famous Galápagos finches that helped develop much his theory of evolution. Providing his descriptions of these species in this 175 year old work, as well as donating his collected specimens to the Zoological Society of London, it was not until 20 years later, in the 1859 “On the Origin of Species” that the true implications of this work was …

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Getting Techy With It: GigaScience Technology Update 2014

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When it comes to technology, GigaScience has always been open and willing to embrace new ways of integrating technology in its publishing processes, with the ultimate goal of working towards more reproducible, interactive and executable papers. So far, 2014 has been an extremely busy year for Team Giga with regards to various technical developments as the journal continues to push the boundaries of reproducible research and open data. Our team have been busy working on our technical platforms, working on case studies and exemplar articles, as well as presenting many of the early results at conferences around the world (see for example Peter Li’s talk at the Galaxy …

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Publishing our first virtual box of delights to aid the fight against heart disease

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Sheer Heart Attack
Diagnosis is key to beginning treatment for preventing coronary heart disease, the most common cause of heart attacks. One useful tool in the fight against this leading killer is magnetic resonance imaging, which allows the direct examination of blood flow to the myocardium of the heart. However, for this perfusion analysis technique to be the most effective requires compensation for the breathing motion of the patient, which is done using complex image processing methods. Thus, there is a need to improve these tools and algorithms. The key to achieving things is the availability of large publicly available MRI datasets to allow testing, optimization and development of …

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Secure Genetic Data Moves into the Fast Lane of Discovery

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Take a ride down chromosome highways with a novel web-based platform that allows sharing of private genetic data while maintaining privacy through a colourful dynamic visualization tool.

The Human Genome Project offered new hope that discovering the genetic determinants which mediate chronic disease susceptibility would lead to new avenues for drug development and targeted therapy, yet over decade later the is disappointment that very few gene screens have made it into the clinic to inform and improve treatment. Getting the most out of the explosion of human genetic data has been difficult due to the massive size of the data produced, as well as the challenges in balancing the need to protect patient privacy with the need to be …

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Uncovering the tangled roots of plant evolution

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Using big data to understand the tree of life
New work just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and GigaScience reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet, and present a huge cache of computational results, data and tools for plant biologists.

In closing the Origin of Species, Darwin described a “tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds”, and this metaphor is apt for our still tangled understanding of how the key branches of the tree of life fit together, particularly the plant kingdom. From strange and exotic algae, mosses, ferns, trees and flowers growing deep …

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Guest Blog: The 2014 Ebola Epidemic: Approaches and resources to slow the spread of infection

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The Ebola pandemic presents one of the most terrifying world health crises in modern times, with devastating consequences in Western Africa [as this goes to press there are now over 10,000 infections and almost 5,000 deaths]. There is a vast amount of data on this crisis available in rapidly published articles and on the internet (check out PLOS Currents: Outbreaks in particular), including past and current numbers of infected; death and infection rates; predicted outbreak expansion; number of current and needed health care workers and treatment centers; required financial resources; and more. These available data can, and are, being used for a broad range of topics, for example a

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Guest Blog: Challenges and opportunities with sharing neuroimaging data

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Here we present a guest blog by our Editorial Board Member Russell Poldrack, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, who highlights the challenges and opportunities surrounding imaging data to enable the neuroscience community to “stand on the shoulders of giants”.

The sharing of neuroimaging data is an idea whose time has finally come, but many challenges remain.  Foremost is the incentive problem: Why should a researcher take the time to organize their data for sharing when they could spend the same time working on a new study or paper?  Related is the credit problem: How will a researcher receive credit for having shared their data?  In addition, there are technical challenges …

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Community Genomes: From the Peoples Parrot, to “Crowdfernding”.

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Despite the precipitous drop in the price of DNA sequencing, global credit crunches have shrunk the science budgets able to properly take advantage of this. At least in the case of non-medical research. With acceptance rates for some of the major funding agencies in the US declining into single digit percentages, the research community needs to look to new ways of supporting the important work they do. One potential development to redress the balance is for scientists to cut out the middleman, and go appeal directly to the source of most scientific funds – the tax paying public. This more democratic approach to doing science rewards those who can engage directly with others. …

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All systems go at ICSB 2014 and the Great GigaScience and Galaxy (G3) workshop

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The 2014 International Conference on Systems Biology (ICSB) was hosted in Australia’s most livable city and event, sport, culture and food capital – that is Melbourne, with GigaScience being proud to be one of the media partners. Stem cell biology was a major theme on the first day, and kicked off to a strong start with Huck Hui Ng (Executive Director  of the Genome Institute of Singapore) giving a great overview of stem cell systems biology. Ng explained how his lab has set up high-throughput capabilities to further understand stem cell pluripotency. Ng’s lab has been able to show that maintenance of human embryonic stem cell stability is governed by – proteins, TFs and co-factors, mediators of …

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Ain’t No Party like a Bring Your Own Data Party!

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Data Club is Gonna Show You How
As science is supposed to be about “standing on the shoulders of giants”, we all know sharing scientific data should be a good thing, but there are obviously large technical and cultural challenges holding things back. Things are a long way from the Jimmy Wales “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge” utopian dream, but some research fields (e.g. genomics) have done a better job making data available than others. Unfortunately sharing complicated scientific data usually isn’t as easy as just dumping it in a dropbox folder, and to be reused …

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