Keeping up to date with research in your field (Part II)

  • Online free courses/tutorials: there is plenty of material on line, which makes it sometimes difficult to filter what is really worthy. Here again, tips from blogs or colleagues from your network might serve as reference. Coursera is, in my opinion, one of the best platforms, due to the quality and versatility of its courses. There are several excellent courses related to Statistics and Data Analysis. Some of them are more general about R programming (e.g. Data Analysis,Computing for Data Analysis – both using R- ),but  there are also more specific ones (e.g. Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials, Statistical Analysis of fMRI Data,.. you can check the full list here.

I would like to mention here some other resources available for those with a math/statistics background who might be interested in getting some insight into genetics. As we mentioned previously in other posts, it is critical to understand the data you are dealing with and these websites will help you with that:

An extensive list of additional Online Genetics Education Resources can be found at the NHGRI site

For those wanting to get an introduction to NGS, there is a Next Generation Sequencing Practical Course at EMB-EBI Train online. A more advanced tutorial, showing the use of R/Bioconductor  packages for High-Throuput Sequence Analysis can be found here.

There are, obviously, countless courses and tutorials about R and specific packages. Besides, GitHub is becoming more and more popular.By creating Gist on GitHub you can share your code quickly and easily, see a quick example here.

  • Webinars:  many commercial sites offer highly focused free Webinars that might be of interest. For instance both Science and Nature host webcasts regularly.

  •  Forums /discussion list: when you are stuck with something and you are not able to find a solution, specialized forums might come to the rescue. Either because your same question has been asked before, or because there is someone willing to help, you will most likely get your doubt solved. Two forums are particularly useful in my field, BioStar and SEQanswers. Talking about R programming, R-help from R Mailing List and Stack Overflow are two of the sites where you can found most of your doubts solved. Our life without them would be much more difficult for sure…

As I mentioned at the beginning of the previous post, it is sometimes difficult to find a balance between the time you spend learning and your more “productive” time. Besides for those of us whose work is also a passion, the line between work and personal interests becomes blurred quite often. And so we will spend much of our leisure time diving around new stuff that eventually will be useful in our work. Some might argue that the time spent in training or the amount of information you have access to might be overwhelming. Is it worth the effort? How much time should we invest in learning? Are we able to take advantage of what we learn? You can take a look at this video  for more elaborate thoughts on the subject.

I hope the information contained in these posts might be useful… Your suggestions on additional resources will be more than welcome!


Keeping up to date with research in your field (Part I)

No doubt about it, we must keep up with news and advances in our area of expertise. In this series of two posts I just want to introduce the ways I find useful in order to achieve this goal. Staying up-to-date means not only knowing what is being done in your field but also learning new skills, tools or tricks that might be applied. I will save for last some thoughts about getting a proper work-learning balance and potential impact on productivity.

  • Blogs. It might be an obvious one, but it is for sure one of my main sources of information. Several blogs I follow include: Getting Genetics Done, Genomes Unzipped, Our 2 SNPs, Wellcome Trust, R-BloggersSimply Statistics and many others mainly focused on biostatistics that you can find in our blog roll. Most of them are accessible through RSS feeds, if not through mail subscription.
  • Twitter. Most blogs have also a twitter account where you can follow their updates (so it might be an alternative). You can follow twitter accounts from networks of interest, companies or people working in your field too. For some ideas on whom to follow, go to our twitter!
  • PubMed / Journals alerting services. A keyword specific PubMed search can be just as relevant. Both available through email and RSS Feeds, you will get updates containing your search terms (for instance “Next Generation Sequencing”, “rare variant association analysis”, “Spastic Paraplegia”…). You can also get information about an author´s work or the citations of a given paper. You can find here how to do it.  An alternative is to set up alerts for Table of Contents of your journals of interests, informing of the topics of latest papers (Nature Genetics, Bioinformatics, Genome Research, Human Mutation, Biostatistics…) Accessing RSS Feeds through your mail app is straightforward -Mozilla Thunderbird in my case-.
  • Professional networking sites. Obviously, when it is all about networking, having a good network of colleagues is one of the best ways to keep up with job offers, news or links to resources. For instance through my LinkedIn contacts I receive quite a bunch of useful tips. Well selected LinkedIn groups are also a source of very valuable information and news, as well as companies in your area or work (pharma industry, genomic services, biostatistics/bioinformatics consulting). This is a more general site, but there are other professional sites focused on Research: ResearchGate and Mendeley. Mendeley in particular, apart from a networking site is an excellent reference manager. This, along with MyNCBI are the two main tools I use to keep my bibliography and searches organized.
  •  Distribution lists.  Apart from general distribution lists including one´s institution or funding agency, more specific newsletters or bulletins from networks as Biostatnet or  scientific societies you belong to, are a good source of news, events and so on, or even more restricted ones (for instance in my institution an R users list has been recently created).

To be continued next week …..

Happy New (International Statistics) Year!

With the start of the new year last Tuesday, it is now time to make resolutions and plans for the 12 months ahead. For scientists and especially for those who are involved in statistical matters, it will be a special one, since 2013 has been declared as the International Year of  Statistics by the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the International Biometric Society, the International Statistical Institute (and the Bernoulli Society), and the Royal Statistical Society. This year commemorates major events that were determinant for the evolution of Statistics. As mentioned on the International Statistics Institute website, “2013 will be the 300th anniversary of Ars Conjectandi, written by Jakob Bernoulli and considered a foundational work in probability…  and the 250th anniversary of the first public presentation of Thomas Bayes’ famous work.”


One of the FreshBiostats initial aims is to promote amongst young researchers, and within our limits, this science that is a complete unknown for many people, but plays at the same time a very important role in many other more popular fields -like Biology or Medicine in the particular case of Biostatistics.

It is with great pleasure that we find as one of the main objectives of Statistics2013 “nurturing Statistics as a profession, especially among young people”, and makes us very proud to be one of the participating groups supporting this and other also important goals. Hopefully, this initiative will contribute to the exponential trend that has been noticed in the interest of students towards this topic (you can find graphical representations of Harvard´s stat concentration enrollment here).

For further information, you can visit the website http://www.statistics2013.org/ and watch the launch video here.

We hope to make a significant contribution to this fantastic year, how will you take part in the celebration? Time is running out!!

Who can be a biostatistician?

Nowadays, Statistics and more specifically Biostatistics is increasingly becoming an important and essential tool in the area of scientific and technical research for everyone who works in very diverse contexts linked to human health, ecology, environment, agriculture, etc.

With the new advances in technology, the extraction and storage of information to create statistical databases is becoming an easier and more feasible task. That is the reason why medical researchers, biologists, chemists, and other professionals not related to Mathematics or Statistics may need to learn a range of statistical techniques to process their data. However, it would be erroneous to expect that neither mathematicians nor statisticians need additional training to know widely the work that biostatisticians carry out. Mathematical knowledge (usually mainly theoretical) is not enough. Ideally, some training in the Bio sciences area would be required too.

But, how to be a biostatistician? What kind of studies do you need? Nowadays there are many formative courses and Master’s degree aimed to biomedical researchers. Here, we will talk about some of them.

  • Basic and specific courses:

On the website of Biostatnet and the Spanish Region of the International Biometric Society (Sociedad Española de Biometría, SEB), among many others, we can find a number of basic and specific courses targeted to health researchers. These courses may be orientated towards professionals who are not statisticians (like this) or may have a more complex content (like this). The Servei d’Estadística Aplicada of the UAB (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), is an example of interdepartmental service with a lot of courses and seminars of different levels.
There are also public healthcare institutions, among them EVES (Valencian School for Health Studies), which sometimes give courses specially aimed to doctors and nurses. It should be underlined that many scientists work daily with simple tests, as t-student, and they need to understand it.

Furthermore, if you need better training there are also different Master’s and postgraduate degrees that offer you high specialization.

  • Master’s and postgraduate degrees:

Currently, in Spain there are few universities that offer Master’s degrees purely Biostatistics. Most of them are combined with other branches of Statistics such as Bioinformatics (one of the newest tools in Genomics). Others give simultaneously Statistics and Operations Research, where Biostatistics itself is part of the agenda. At present, the Universitat de València is the only one that offers a Master’s degree in Biostatistics.
The following are some of the Master’s degree and postgraduate courses in Statistics taught in Spanish universities:

  1. Master’s degree

Máster en Bioestadística (UV)

Máster en Bioinformática/Bioinformatics (UAB)

Máster en Bioinformática y bioestadística (UOC)

Máster en Estadística Aplicada (UGR)

Máster en Estadística e Investigación Operativa (UPC)

Máster en Técnicas Estadísticas (Interuniversity master degree between UDC, USC and UVIGO)

  1. Postgraduate courses

Máster en Metodología de la investigación: Diseño y estadística en ciencias de la salud (UAB)

Máster en Bioestadística: fundamentos de la estadística (UOC)

As we can see, in Spanish universities, Biostatistics has yet to be noticed. That is why it would be interesting that they would focus on a science that is winning more and more followers. Do you want to join? Biostatistics is breaking down walls!