March 3, 2017

Changing understandings

Reading an article on the BBC website ('Computers show how wind could have parted Red Sea') this morning reminded me how sometimes our understanding of the world can change.  Here is a case of what many people would have thought of as  being a colourful but unlikely story,  gaining some new evidence/theory/insight, and moving toward being perceived as an actual  event that we might be able to explain scientifically.

Often in science our understanding of whats really happening can change completely. The case of micro-RNAs is an excellent example. In the early 90's only a couple of MiRNAs were known, and these were found in worms. And so in the early years of miRNAs 'life in science' they were thought of as a oddity or an artifact and surely had no significant function.   Now, less than 20 years later, the number of known miRNAs submitted to miRBase stands at 15172 and is still increasing rapidly, together with the number of species they have been found in.  And of course it turns out they also have some important roles in gene regulation which makes them such a hot topic to study today.

And changing understandings is also very much something we face working in the world of Open Source bioinformatics at Eagle Genomics.  Here are a couple  of example misconceptions:

- 'it would be cheaper to employ a new internal person than outsource the work'.   Factor in the time for a new person to get their head round a project and all the other overheads involved, and in reality it can often be cheaper outsourcing bioinformatics. Even for an academic group ( we have an academic rate ).

- 'Open-source software means badly written and unsupported'.  Sometimes yes! But there is so much great open-source software out there that is well written and supported that it would be a mistake to overlook it because of the bad stuff.  We spend time identifying the software worth using and also provide support where needed.

Topics: BBC, Bioinformatics, Bioinformatics, changing understanding, genomics, micro-RNA, miRBase, miRNA, Open source, outsourcing, parting, red sea, science, wind