Lennart Martens, Ghent University, Dept of Biochemistry, Belgium
Proteomics bioinformatics was recently accepted as a formal Community in the European ELIXIR Bioinformatics Research Infrastructure, and currently consists of thirteen members: Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, UK and EMBL-EBI.
To learn more about what this means for the field, HUPOST spoke with Dr. Juan Antonio Vizcaíno (EMBL-EBI), Prof. Oliver Kohlbacher (University of Tuebingen), and Prof. Lennart Martens (Ghent University and VIB), three of the founders of the newly minted ELIXIR Community, about what this means for proteomics.
HUPOST: What exactly is ELIXIR?
JAV: ELIXIR is a recently created European Research Infrastructure (ESFRI) for life sciences data. It was founded in 2014 as a way to raise awareness in the research community about the importance of European data resources and bioinformatics tools, which increasingly act as basic building blocks for research in the field.
OK: In that vein, ELIXIR aims to establish standards, bring researchers together, and enable international collaboration on these topics. And to enable all this, there is some funding available as well.
LM: ELIXIR is organized around the central ELIXIR Hub at EMBL-EBI, which is connected to a network of national nodes in 21 European countries at present, with in turn act as liaisons to 180 research organizations. So ELIXIR is in its essence a large-scale European research network for bioinformatics research infrastructure.
HUPOST: Why is a Proteomics Community within ELIXIR important?
JAV: The creation of formal Communities (formerly known as ‘use cases’) within ELIXIR is meant to highlight special interest subgroups that focus on a mature application domain within the life sciences.
LM: So having a Proteomics Community brings three benefits: first, it recognizes the importance of proteomics, and of proteomics bioinformatics in the life sciences in general; second, it provides a means for the European proteomics bioinformatics community to interact between the various nations; and third, it also provides a formal framework to integrate proteomics bioinformatics with other Communities (see here).
HUPOST: What was needed to establish the Proteomics Community in ELIXIR?
JAV: First, the ELIXIR Hub asked prominent members in the community to organize a workshop, which served as the catalyst to write a white paper to establish the needs of the community, their contributions and links to other Communities, and their priorities related to the five core ELIXIR platforms: data, tools, compute resources, training, and interoperability.
OK: The Proteomics Community white paper has been published as open access in F1000Research, and you can find it here. It is worth noting that the same workshop also sparked off similar activities for a separate, but closely connected, metabolomics community in ELIXIR.
LM: Once the white paper had been published, a formal Community application was submitted, which was then reviewed and approved by the Heads of Node of the different ELIXIR members.
HUPOST: What has the ELIXIR Proteomics Community already accomplished?
JAV: We have recently been granted a first Implementation study application, and a second one has been applied for. These Implementation Studies are small-scale collaborative projects in which several national ELIXIR nodes work together towards a common goal, again focused primarily on one of the five ELIXIR platforms.
LM: And let’s not forget that the PRIDE database has also been named an ELIXIR core data resource, which are European resources deemed to be of fundamental importance to the wider life science community, and for the long-term preservation of biological data (see here). This decision thus recognizes the efforts that the community has been investing in making proteomics data available, as well as the widespread adoption of data sharing practices in the field.
HUPOST: Seems like you’re off to a good start! What are the next steps for the Proteomics Community?
JAV: We identified three areas of future activities: improved data processing and analysis pipeline; elucidation of the deep proteome and its integration with multi-omics data; and of course, throughout we need data management and annotation! The details are set out in our the white paper. Of course, these goals are directly relevant to HUPO, and this is no coincidence. European proteomics bioinformatics researchers have after all been very actively involved in several related HUPO initiatives, such as HUPO-PSI and the HPP.
LM: It’s also relevant to point out that the ELIXIR Proteomics Community is happy to liaise with similar proteomics and proteomics informatics communities outside of Europe. And we really do need to invest some time in the near future to make a nice Community webpage on the ELIXIR website, with our vision, contact details, and plans!
HUPOST: Thank you for your time, and good luck with the ELIXIR Proteomics Community!