Informatics Specialist in Bioinformatics USC Libraries / Bioinformatics Services
Background: Bioinformatics, a cross disciplinary amalgamation of computational science, statistics, and biology, has grown to become an important field of study and expertise integral to biomedical and life-sciences research. Driven by rapid technological advancements in the development and mechanization of new molecular biology techniques, the massive amounts of data generated have been deposited into countless online databases which require relevant bioinformatics expertise to efficiently search, access and analyze. The bioinformatics service program at our health sciences library was established in 2005 to cater to the increasing need for bioinformatics support in our university community, and has steadily expanded over the years.
Description: Our program currently consists of three full-time bioinformatics specialists based out of two separate campuses, serving the Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, Biological and Earth Sciences, Bio-Engineering, and Gerontology schools of the university, as well as affiliated hospitals. Our service offerings span a wide range of bioinformatics activities, including research consultation and training, access to bioinformatics software and computational resources, collaborative data analysis, and grant application support. Having completed fifteen years of service, we conducted a university-wide survey in 2019 in order to continually evaluate the evolving demographic distribution of our bioinformatics community, their self-assessment of bioinformatics needs, their evaluation of our current range of service offerings, and their opinions on different models of providing bioinformatics services.
Conclusion: The survey yielded over 300 responses comprising a good mix of faculty, research staff, post-docs, and students. Genomic data analysis, use of open-source, and commercial software, are the top three bioinformatics needs, with a majority of respondents relying on our services. Our top three service categories are bioinformatics software access, workshops/training, and research consultation, with more than 75% of respondents rating them extremely helpful or helpful. On average, over 40% of respondents consider our current services adequate, and over 40% would like to see further expansion. These valuable survey feedback have been incorporated into our strategic plans for the future.