The Bielefeld University Bioinformatics Service (BiBiServ) provides a collection of bioinformatical tools, support services, and eLearning courses for public access over the internet.
The BiBiServ group supports internet based collaborative research in bioinformatics. BiBiServ follows the software as a service (SaaS) model by making tools developed by the different CeBiTec bioinformatic groups available to the community. Currently, more than 50 software tools and various educational media are available online. These include tools from different research areas such as RNA structure prediction and comparison, comparative genomics, phylogeny and primer design.
All tools published on BiBiServ follow the same design rules to allow non-bioinformatic users easy access. The BiBiServ team supports authors to integrate their tools into the server environment, comply with the usability rules, and design all ‘up-to-date’ interfaces (i.e. interactive browser based webservices, webservice interfaces, BioMoby services).
A problem which is faced by many in the field of bioinformatics is the lack of persistence and usability of bioinformatic resources. The BiBiServ environment imposes certain well-defined technical requirements on all tools to be offered online. The curator team supports developers to meet these requirements. In return, tool developers are rewarded with service persistence: online services for any tool on the BiBiServ will be continued until a better tool for the same purpose becomes available, or its purpose becomes obsolete. At this point the tool will switch to an archived state, but all resources will remain available for download as long as the BiBiServ exists.
One of the major problems in bioinformatics today is the huge and fast growing amount of experimental data that is being produced by techniques such as high-throughput sequencing. Another often underestimated problem for users of web-based/distributed bioinformatical tools is the multitude of formats for the same type of data and missing knowledge about which tool accepts which kind of format for the given data type. The integration of Semantic Web Technologies into BiBiServ (e.g datatype and tool class semantics) will enable the system to infer equivalencies between input/output data types and tools addressing similar or identical problems. This allows for automatic inclusion of previously unavailable input and output formats and the automated suggestion of alternative tools to try for users of BiBiServ. Semantically annotating the tools, data, persons, publications and educational content presented by BiBiServ will make these entities easier to find and better integrated within and outside the BiBiServ environment. Ultimately, adding semantical annotations will enable users to perform their scientific work with more confidence about the meanings of their result data.
BiBiServ Media & Distance Education supports teaching in bioinformatics with internet-based courses. The most recent ones are 'The ADP Pages' (interactive pages that allow to study an experiment with classical dynamic programming algorithm), 'Sequence Analysis with Distributed Resources' (a web-based course on sequence analysis using distributed web resources) and 'About Dynamic Programming' (an introduction into the technique of dynamic programming with interactive application examples).