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Data driven biology


World-class bioscience is critically dependent on new technologies, methodologies and resources. This priority aims to encourage research that will yield the next-generation of these 'new ways of working'. Projects should focus on underpinning and enabling one of the BBSRC strategic research priorities (food security, industrial biotechnology, bioscience underpinning health) or have potential, generic utility across one or more broad areas of the biosciences.

Scientific scope

The focus on data driven biology aims to encourage the development of tools and approaches that are required to underpin and enable modern biological research as it continues to evolve as a data intensive discipline. The area includes the development of bioinformatics software tools and the adoption of novel computational approaches. Within this broad domain, BBSRC is particularly keen to encourage the development of tools in the following areas:

  • Analysis and interrogation of next generation sequencing datasets
  • Capturing variation and linking biological processes through to phenotypic traits
  • Extracting quantitative information from large or complex image sets.
  • New visualisation approaches supporting knowledge-discovery in biological data

The area complements technology development by providing a focus on the informatics tools, resources and methods that are essential to derive maximum value from bioanalytical or biological-based technologies. Projects that combine informatics approaches with these other technologies, for example to enhance analysis or automate metadata generation and manipulation etc. are also welcome.

A second aspect of data driven biology is to encourage bioscience researchers to adopt approaches such as semantic computing, high performance computing, cloud computing, text-mining and other web-based approaches in order to integrate, analyse and extract information from new or repurposed datasets to identify novel insights and create new knowledge. These datasets may arise from a variety of sources, and may be highly complex and potentially large in scale.

Outputs and impacts


It is expected that proposals will require strong multidisciplinary partnerships between bioscientists and researchers in the physical sciences, engineering and information technology disciplines.

Proposals in data driven biology (informatics tools development) should describe how they will fulfil (an) unmet need(s) in the biosciences.

Proposals that are focused on the development of new informatics tools and resources should ensure that they are designed as much as possible/practical with the end users in mind.

Data sharing

Proposals should comply with BBSRC's Data Sharing Policy (see related links). Proposals developing informatics tools should make such tools available to the wider user and developer community with as few restrictions as possible, ideally using open source best practices (e.g. Creative Commons or Open Source Initiative recommended licences). However, BBSRC recognises that, at times, the creators' intellectual property rights may need protected before any sharing takes place, and this is encouraged where appropriate beforehand. Such protection should not unduly delay the release of any data/tools arising from BBSRC funding.

Pathways to Impact

It is expected that proposals in the area of 'data driven biology' will provide tools and resources of potential application to broad communities in the biosciences.