Birds of a feather

18 March 2016 - By: Sarah Blackford

Birds of a Feather

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By Sarah Blackford

There was only enough time to take in the penguins when Sarah Morgan (EMBL-EBI) and Gabriella Rustici (University of Cambridge) visited Cape Town for the 2015 GOBLET AGM in November last year and definitely no opportunity to take the cable car up Table Mountain.

Prior to attending the GOBLET AGM, they ran a workshop on “Best practices in Bioinformatics Training”, training ‘local’ educators, who had travelled from all over Africa for the H3ABioNet (Pan African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa) conference and were staying on to take advantage of the opportunity to engage in their ‘train the trainers’ event.

Perhaps you haven’t heard of the Global Organisation for Bioinformatics, Learning, Education & Training - GOBLET - or were not aware that SEB is its only affiliated non-Bioinformatics society member. Its mission (see box) is to address some of the bioinformatics knowledge gaps amongst practising biologists, to build confidence and understanding of this challenging field. Along with 26 other organisations (which include global bioinformatics learned societies, universities and research institutes), SEB represents the users of this technology, and took the lead in GOBLET’s initial audit exercise to identify the needs of the bioscience research community. Since its inception, GOBLET has formalised its organisational structure and built capacity through its membership. In 2012 it held its first meeting in Uppsala, Sweden and since then its AGM has become an established event, each time attracting a selected group of bioinformatics educators, who have flocked together to discuss global training matters.

Aimed mainly at new bioinformatics trainers, the 2015 GOBLET “Best practices in Bioinformatics Training” event, held at the University of Cape Town Medical School, was the third of its kind and, as Sarah Morgan explains, “each training session is tailored to the needs of the host country”. For example, prior to the Toronto AGM in 2014, a similar event focused on the engagement of school teachers. Hosted by one of GOBLET’s members and leader of H3ABioNet, Nicky Mulder, Sarah and Gabriella took the lead on day 1, delivering to those with little or no experience, the basics of teaching methodologies and how setting objectives, adapting training to different learning styles and assessing feedback can facilitate the learning process. Day 2 was for the more experienced teachers who were keen to find out how best the training community can support itself, as well as finding out about on-line learning technologies, giving wider access to training across Africa. Delegates were also introduced to and invited to further discuss the ISCB curriculum core competencies.

With both workshops receiving excellent feedback, a stimulating post-event discussion around training excellence, followed by a waterfront wrap-up dinner, GOBLET is looking forward to its next event to be held in Australia this year; let’s see which topics will fly there!  


GOBLET - The Global Organisation for Bioinformatics, Learning, Education & Training – has, amongst its primary aims, the following mission:

  • To provide a global, sustainable support and networking structure for bioinformatics educators/trainers and students/trainees (including a training portal for sharing materials, tools, tips and techniques; guidelines and best practice documents; facilities to help train the trainers; and offering different learning pathways for different types of learner)

  • To facilitate capacity development in bioinformatics in all countries

  • To reach out to, amongst others, teachers at high schools, to bridge the gap to the next generation of bioinformaticians. 

Category: SEB+
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Sarah Blackford

Sarah Blackford is the head of education and public affairs at the SEB and the editor of the SEB magazine. As a qualified careers adviser and MBTI practitioner, Sarah provides career development and support for SEB members and the wider scientific community. Sarah is also an active member within SEB+, focusing on a number of initiatives aimed at improving gender equality and diversity in the science field.