VIBE Education Edition

Project Background

The life science and biotechnology research communities face a significant bottleneck in the discovery process. This bottleneck is caused in part by a shortage of trained bioinformaticists, i.e. experts who analyze and mine life science data for knowledge. 

As long ago as 2002, an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "A 'Feeding Frenzy' for People Skilled in Both Biology and Technology" discussed the challenges that the industry will face due to the lack of qualified bioinformaticists. The article highlighted and recognized efforts by the College of William and Mary and INCOGEN to address this problem, but recognizes that far more must be done to eliminate it completely. 

In response to this demand, recent years witnessed steep increases in bioinformatics courses and degree programs at colleges and universities worldwide. However, textbooks and lectures alone do not expose bioinformatics students to hands-on data analysis and, by themselves, are insufficient for bioinformatics education. Despite the growing trend in bioinformatics education programs and the need for educationally-focused tools, there has been a significant lack of commercially available software tools specifically designed for bioinformatics education. 

Currently, bioinformatics instructors fill this gap by using either complicated and expensive research tools or collections of web-based tools. Bioinformatics research software is often cost-prohibitive for an educational application, and the software itself is geared towards experts in the field rather than students. Web-based tools are often free of charge, but are often dispersed throughout the web, requiring excessive time and sometimes programming skill to combine the use of several tools. Many of the tools are not accompanied by instructions or related conceptual information, making them less suitable for education. 

VIBE Education Edition (VIBE-Ed) successfully addresses these concerns and promises an immediate impact in bioinformatics education and, ultimately, in knowledge discovery in life science research. The unique use of visual programming in the VIBE-Ed software makes it an ideal platform for teaching complex concepts in a field such as bioinformatics.