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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

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.

Study Presents New Insights Into How Cancer Cells Overcome Telomere Shortening

Researchers report in Nucleic Acids Research that ATRX-deficient cancer cells have increased activity of the alternative lengthening of telomeres pathway.

Researchers Link Telomere Length With Alzheimer's Disease

Within UK Biobank participants, longer leukocyte telomere length is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, according to a new study in PLOS One.

Nucleotide Base Detected on Near-Earth Asteroid

Among other intriguing compounds, researchers find the nucleotide uracil, a component of RNA sequences, in samples collected from the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, as they report in Nature Communications.