EMBER: a European Multimedia Bioinformatics Educational Resource

Jane E. Mabey, Teresa K. Attwood

Abstract


Bioinformatics has taken centre stage in the post-genomic era. The data overload arising from the many now-fruitful genome projects has created an insatiable demand for suitably qualified people to build and maintain databases, to design more incisive analysis software, to use disparate databases and software tools, and to understand both the statistical and biological significance of results generated in silico. It is rare to find individuals with such a range of skills, yet such scientists are now needed urgently in sequencing centres, research/academic institutes, pharmaceutical/agrochemical companies, software houses and start-up companies. But the rate of growth of this field, and its cross-disciplinary nature, has created a problem: while there are many trained biologists and computer scientists, there are few computer-literate biologists or biology-literate computer scientists. Consequently, there is a dearth of skilled staff in bioinformatics. This is especially problematic for universities, which are less able than large multinational companies to compete for the small numbers of trained individuals emerging from current MSc, MRes or PhD courses.

In an attempt to address the current European skills shortage in bioinformatics, the European Commission has recently funded an innovative new educational project that aims to develop a suite of multimedia bioinformatics educational tools (collectively termed EMBER). EMBER will provide teaching materials for undergraduate and early postgraduate studies; it will comprise a self-contained, interactive web tutorial in bioinformatics, the equivalent stand-alone course on CD-ROM, and an accompanying introductory textbook. The use of conventional text, coupled with web- and CD-based media, will ensure that students for whom Internet access is not optimal also have access to the same fundamental level of bioinformatics education.

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