BILS should be a sustainable infrastructure, ideally with long-term support and with regular evaluations to influence the continuation and directions. Coordination
One of the tasks for BILS is to coordinate Swedish bioinformatics efforts, especially in international collaborations. This work has already been initiated within the Swedish planning for ELIXIR. BILS will function as a network between all bioinformatics groups.
BILS will have regular contacts with other infrastructures in biosciences to be able to efficiently provide proper bioinformatics support and to avoid unproductive duplications of efforts. BILS will also organise regular meetings in Sweden.
BILS will have long-term responsibilities, e.g. in providing data resources beyond the initial phase that often is funded from elsewhere.
BILS will provide bioinformatic expertise to the life science community. Furthermore, BILS will have national responsibilities in specialised areas. The support can be organised as local BILS nodes at each university having contact surface towards the local university. Some functions are more efficiently organised on a national level and are better centralised at one site.
Analogously to the formation of SNIC in 2002, connecting existing high-performance computer centres at Swedish universities, the formation of BILS can be seen as a “meta centre” connecting existing bioinformatics groups in order to increase collaboration and knowledge transfer, providing some services nationally and some services locally. Even if the subject “bioinformatics” can be considered much more inhomogeneous than “large-scale computing”, the analogy is valid from the perspective that both BILS and SNIC build on existing centres/groups which after expansion and coordination arrive at a functional and useful infrastructure.
When BILS is fully extended, each university would have the advantage of locally available bioinformatic support for daily interactions and easy contacts between life science researchers and bioinformaticians, at the same time as nationally available expertise will be available for specialised issues. Furthermore, the bioinformaticians will have the advantage of close collegial connections for mutual knowledge transfer.
For bioinformatics methods and calculations, data warehouses, web services and further BILS functions, computer resources are needed. These will be provided in close collaboration with SNIC to ensure optimal technical solutions and long term support. For optimisation of algorithms used in several of the planned BILS services, the SNIC competence will be valuable, as has already been proven in examples from multiple scientific fields. We also foresee connections with DISC (Database Infrastructure Centre), when the area of DISC responsibilities has expanded to also include all life sciences.
One important issue for BILS will be bioinformatic education on multiple levels, especially on the graduate level, where national coordination will provide added value. On the undergraduate level, the responsibility lies at the universities and many universities have already set up courses. However, the BILS network will provide valuable interactions and could also coordinate efforts in providing teaching material, similarly as has already been the case in collaborations between Uppsala, Umeå and Stockholm Universities, and between Linköping University and Karolinska Institutet. For graduate education, it will be increasingly important to provide specialised courses on a national basis in order to keep up with up-to-date methods and give courses at regular time intervals. In the future, BILS might also host a national research training programme in bioinformatics.
The role of BILS in education will be especially important when Sweden should take part in the new training system provided by EBI, where they in the future will focus on “training of trainers”, instead of giving courses directly to the “end users”.