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PeerJ. 2018 Sep 11;6:e5553. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5553. eCollection 2018.

Data challenges of biomedical researchers in the age of omics.

Author information

Bioinformatics Support Program, Research and Education Services, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States of America.
Science Libraries, Lewis Science Library, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States of America.
Pulmonary Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States of America.
Service commun de la documentation, Université Denis Diderot (Paris VII), Paris, France.



High-throughput technologies are rapidly generating large amounts of diverse omics data. Although this offers a great opportunity, it also poses great challenges as data analysis becomes more complex. The purpose of this study was to identify the main challenges researchers face in analyzing data, and how academic libraries can support them in this endeavor.


A multimodal needs assessment analysis combined an online survey sent to 860 Yale-affiliated researchers (176 responded) and 15 in-depth one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using NVivo 10 software according to the thematic analysis approach.


The survey response rate was 20%. Most respondents (78%) identified lack of adequate data analysis training (e.g., R, Python) as a main challenge, in addition to not having the proper database or software (54%) to expedite analysis. Two main themes emerged from the interviews: personnel and training needs. Researchers feel they could improve data analyses practices by having better access to the appropriate bioinformatics expertise, and/or training in data analyses tools. They also reported lack of time to acquire expertise in using bioinformatics tools and poor understanding of the resources available to facilitate analysis.


The main challenges identified by our study are: lack of adequate training for data analysis (including need to learn scripting language), need for more personnel at the University to provide data analysis and training, and inadequate communication between bioinformaticians and researchers. The authors identified the positive impact of medical and/or science libraries by establishing bioinformatics support to researchers.


Computational biology; Data interpretation; Genomics; Information seeking behavior; Software; Statistical; Survey

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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