A workshop report from the May 2015 non-model RNAseq workshop at UC Davis

We just finished teaching the second of my RNAseq workshops at UC Davis -- the fifth workshop I've hosted since I took a faculty position here in VetMed. In order, we've done a Train the Trainers, a Data Carpentry, a reference-guided RNAseq assembly workshop, a mothur (microbial ecology) workshop, and a de novo RNAseq assembly workshop -- you can see all of the links at the Data Intensive Biology Training Program Web site. This workshop was the May de novo mRNAseq assembly workshop, which I co-taught with Tamer Mansour and Camille Scott.

The workshops are still maturing, and I'm trying to figure out how to keep this going for the medium term, but so far I think we're doing an OK job. We can always improve the material and the delivery, but I think at least we're on a good trajectory.

This workshop (and the many excellent questions raised by the attendees) reminded me how much of RNAseq analysis is still research -- it's not just a question of what assembler and quantification method to use, but much more fundamental questions of data evaluation, assembly evaluation, and how to tie this into the biology you're trying to do. My lab works on this a lot, and too much of the time we have to say "we just don't know" - often because the experts don't agree, or because the answer is just unknown.

I also despair sometimes that the energy and effort we're putting into this isn't enough. There is a huge demand, and these two day workshops are at best a stopgap measure, and I really have no idea whether they're going to help biologists starting from scratch to analyze their own data.

I do have other arrows in my quiver. Once my lab "lands" at Davis (sometime between June and September) I expect to start up a biology "data space" of some sort, where every week people who have been through one of my workshops can come work on their data analysis; the hope is that, much like the Davis R Users Group, we can start to build a community around biological data analysis. Stay tuned.

I'm also planning to start running more advanced workshops. One great idea that Tamer pitched to me this morning was to run a follow-on workshop entitled "publishing your transcriptome", which would focus on quality measures and analysis downstream of your first-blush transcriptome assembly/annotation/quantification. I'm also hoping to put together an "automation and reproducibility" workshop in the fall, along with a variety of more focused workshops on specific platforms and questions.

And, of course, we'll continue running the intro workshops. In addition to the mRNASeq workshops, in the fall I'd like to do workshops on microbial genome assembly and annotation, metagenome and metatranscriptome assembly, and advanced UCSC genome browser use/misuse (think assembly hubs etc.).

--titus

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