Translational Bioinformatics: PLOS Computational Biology presents an educational resource for an emerging field

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PLOS Computational Biology is pleased to announce the launch of a new collection of Education articles:  “Translational Bioinformatics”. This collection is presented as an online “book” which could serve as a reference tool for a graduate level introductory course, marking a step in an exciting new direction for the Education section of the journal.

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Translational bioinformatics is an emerging field that addresses the current challenges of integrating increasingly voluminous amounts of molecular and clinical data.  Its aim is to provide a better understanding of the molecular basis of disease, which in turn will inform clinical practice and ultimately improve human health. In the Introduction of the collection, Russ Altman highlights some of these challenges and the role of translational bioinformatics in resolving them, defining the field as “the development and application of informatics methods that connect molecular entities to clinical entities”.

As can be seen just by looking at the content of this collection, the field of translational bioinformatics encompasses a wide range of topics including pharmacogenomics, medical genomics and human microbiome analysis. In each of the 14 chapters, leading experts in the field focus on one of these key topics, providing a solid introduction for those new to translational bioinformatics. Like all other PLOS articles, chapters in this open-access collection are freely available to everyone for reuse and redistribution, for example as course materials. Notably, the authors have created exercise questions for each chapter, which could be used by students or other interested readers to test what they’ve learned. Answers to these exercises can be found in the supporting information. This is just the start though, as translational bioinformatics is a rapidly growing area, and publishing this resource as a PLOS Computational Biology collection will enable us to develop the content as the field develops.

The idea to create a collection in the format of a book was first conceived when Maricel Kann, Guest Editor of the collection, approached the journal earlier this year. Since then, Maricel, along with our Education Editor Fran Lewitter, has spearheaded the project and their hard work has created the resource you see today. A PDF of the full collection has been created, which you can download here. This has been an exciting new project to work on and Phil Bourne, Founding Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Computational Biology, keenly anticipates its role in marking a change in the accessibility of educational materials:

“The era of writing those time-consuming chapters that typically form mini-reviews in an expensive, little read book, are over. As PLOS Computational Biology publishes its first book in the form of an open-access collection, complete with exercises and answers, a new era begins: an era of wide distribution and access to important science for everyone. “Translational Bioinformatics” edited by Maricel Kann is a fitting beginning – an important “book” with excellent contributions from leading authors in a rapidly growing field. Thanks go to Maricel for her energy in pushing this, to Education Editor Fran Lewitter and the PLOS staff for making this happen, and to PLOS for continuing to push the envelope on making science accessible to all.”

By Laura Taylor

You can visit the collection at: www.ploscollections.org/translationalbioinformatics

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