he widespread impact of the genomics revolution has reached into every aspect of biology. As a result of new technologies for molecular investigation, the composition of the genome and the various organisational layers that exist between the genome and organismic response to the environment are now better described. These organisational layers, known as ‘omics (e.g., genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc), are now accessible for investigation in their entirety. This scope of investigation has not only opened unparalleled opportunities for a more complete understanding of how organisms or communities interact with the environment but also created an informatics challenge unprecedented in environmental biology. With technical advances in instrumentation, the sheer volume of data generated by ‘omics investigation is orders of magnitude higher than has been the norm in environmental biology, creating new challenges for data storage, data analysis, and indeed optimisation of data structures generally. At the same time, important new opportunities for innovation in addressing critical problems can arise from the effective blending of bioinformatics and environmental ‘omics.
To leverage the full potential of these developments to deliver its strategy, ‘Next Generation Science for Planet Earth’, the NERC has established a virtual Environmental ‘Omics Synthesis Centre [Link to EOS] to facilitate the coalescence and emergence of novel scientific approaches to environmental ‘omics that take on board the potential complexity of the data generated to maximise scientific benefit. EOS is tasked with enabling the emergence of novel scientific synthesis within the NERC community by, amongst other activities, fostering relationships with other UK research communities that might benefit from environmental ‘omics as well as contribute to its development. STFC has a well-established infrastructure for addressing complex data on the scale that is likely to be generated through future investigations in environmental ‘omics. Therefore there is substantial potential for synergism between the emerging need for enhanced scale of bioinformatics approaches to environmental ‘omics as identified by the NERC and the existing facilities base in the STFC, to the benefit of both.
The present STFC Global Networks call provides a timely opportunity for the development of strong connections between STFC and NERC interests in environmental sciences. Indeed, the bioinformatics challenge presented by environmental ‘omics was specifically highlighted at the second STFC Environment Futures Workshop. The NERC EOS is just now being established, so that network building with STFC scientists at this stage will ensure that the extensive resource base of the STFC will be an integral part of bioinformatics and environmental ‘omics as collaboration between these fields is developed over the next five years.