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Pulling It Together


If you look hard enough, you can still buy a new computer with Windows XP on it. That was a relief when I bought a new laptop recently — not only because I wanted to avoid Vista, but also because I'm enjoying the rarity of seeing my programs play well together and it would be awfully nice to keep it up.

Having software and data that work well with each other is not nearly as common as we'd like it to be. In bioinformatics, this problem is so insidious and pervasive that in talking about it we use words guaranteed to bring on headaches: Interoperability. Standardization. Integration.

Genome Technology's Matthew Dublin relied on his extensive bioinformatics knowledge (plus a healthy supply of aspirin) to delve into this topic, finding that the push to make data available, searchable, and meaningful in a large-scale way is finally gaining the critical mass it needs to make a difference in your life. As he reports in our cover story, advances in semantic Web technology in particular are beginning to improve life both for bioinformaticists and for biologists who just want to make sense of their data. There's been plenty of snooze-worthy material written on the semantic Web, but Matthew's article offers a digestible update with practical information that'll get you up to speed without making your eyes glaze over. For a really specific look at ontological issues, don't miss Fran Lewitter and George Bell's Informatics Insider column; this month they discuss issues in collecting full gene sets.

Also in this issue, we've got feature stories on copy number variation — in particular, how it's being used to understand and even diagnose disease — and on innovations in protein analysis techniques. Our Lab Reunion this month profiles the University of Washington's Debbie Nickerson, who's made a name for herself as a leader in SNP research. And our career column offers helpful tips on how to land that first industry gig when every job listing you see requires previous experience in the corporate world.

Filed under

The Scan

Guidelines for Ancient DNA Work

More than two dozen researchers have developed new ethical guidelines for conducting ancient DNA research, which they present in Nature.

And Cleared

A UK regulator has cleared former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in concerns he should have registered as a consultant-lobbyist for his work with Illumina, according to the Financial Times.

Suit Over Allegations

The Boston Globe reports that David Sabatini, who was placed on leave from MIT after allegations of sexual harassment, is suing his accuser, the Whitehead Institute, and the institute's director.

Nature Papers on Esophageal Cancer, Origin of Modern Horses, Exome Sequencing of UK Biobank Participants

In Nature this week: genetic and environmental influences of esophageal cancer, domestic horse origin traced to Western Eurasian steppes, and more.