Current position: Principal Investigator
Affiliation: Functional Gene Annotation, University College London (UCL)
I have been participating in the annotation of the human genome for 20 years and now lead an annotation team based at UCL with a focus on the manual Gene Ontology (GO) annotation of human genes. I am in an unusual position, having created a small annotation group, within a university environment, with a focus on GO annotation of genes that contribute to human disease. My biocuration experience started at the HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), following 12 years of bench genetic research studying Drosophila and then human immune genes. Although, not working within a large curation group or bioinformatics institute, I have very close links with EMBL-EBI, the GO Consortium and the IMEx Consortium. Last year I was promoted to Professorial Research Fellow, possibly one of the first biocurators to be awarded this title, weirdly, I felt like this was recognition not just for my work but also recognition of the importance of the work contributed by all biocurators.
As a member of the GO and IMEx Consortiums and the Gene Regulation Ensemble Effort for the Knowledge Commons (GREEKC), I have been fortunate to be involved in many discussions about the every-day problems we face as biocurators. GREEKC has made me appreciate that the majority of biocurators care about knowledge and are motivated by a desire to make that knowledge available to the global scientific community. I think that, in addition to increasing access to this knowledge, there is a sense that progress in medical, agricultural as well as basic research is being facilitated by the work we do.
As a member of the ISB Executive Committee I would like to see ISB address the problem that many researchers do not appreciate the dedication of biocurators and how the annotation data they are using is created. This lack of understanding is likely to contribute to papers being published without the methods that would support full curation of the data presented, the lack of funding for curation projects, the complaints about bioinformatics resources not being complete as well as the lack of recognition biocurators receive. Being surrounded by clinical and basic research scientists made me appreciate the lack of understanding many of these researchers have about how information arrives in the biological knowledge bases they are using every day. Consequently, in all of the courses I run I ask the attendees to discuss in small groups where they think this data comes from. Thus, at least 400 scientists (including graduate students, clinicians, statisticians and professors) now appreciate the role of biocurators. I would promote the inclusion of biocuration discussions in more bioinformatic resource courses.
The second key area that I believe ISB should lead in is biocurator health. I would like to see ISB promote flexible working to improve work/life balance and provide information about good working practices to reduce ill health due to bad posture and our sedentary lifestyle. At UCL both of these areas are starting to be addressed, however, ISB could contact Institutes where these issues are being overlooked. In addition, I would like to see information on the ISB website to encourage ISB members to seriously consider the impact biocuration has on their long-term health.
Conflicts of interest and other commitments
I can confirm that I have no affiliation or relationship that prevents me from performing duties as a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society for Biocuration, should I be elected.
I am a member of International Society for Biocuration (ISB) and British Atherosclerosis Society neither of which would provide a conflict of interest.
I have reviewed manuscripts for the following journals: Atherosclerosis, Bioscience Reports, Brain and Neuroscience Advances, Cardiovascular Research, Current Bioinformatics, DATABASE, F1000, Frontiers Genetics, Genes (Basel), Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences, npj Parkinson’s Disease, Methods Mol Biol, Nucleic Acids Research, Parkinson’s Disease, PeerJ.
I understand that I must contact both the ISB and the Nomination Committee if a conflict exists or arises during my service.