Data, like money, seems to be driving the world these days. Data-producing technology has evolved so fast in the past few decades that it has created – and continues to do so – huge amounts of data that, like a very large wild creature, need to be tamed and tended to. Competence centres and core facilities in Universities have budded over the past 20 years as a means to centralize the data they generate by offering ways to store them, analyze them and visualize them. And in all sorts of fields: from physics and the life sciences, to astronomy and economics. Rostyk Kuzyakiv is a Data scientist at SIB’s High Performance Computing centre and core facility S3IT on the grounds of the University of Zurich and, together with Dr. Lars Malmström (Senior Data Scientist at the S3IT), is in charge of IPortal, an integrated data and workflow manager developed specifically for biomedical data.

The S3IT adventure began in 2014 and was largely inspired by another well-known core facility: Vital-IT. IPortal emerged a couple of years later when it became apparent that biomedical data was in dire need of its own facilities. “Biomedical data was – and still is – pouring in. We were dealing with many projects and it was becoming difficult to cope,” says Kuzyakiv. “The need for a place not only dedicated to biomedical data and its analysis but that researchers could easily refer to and go back to was becoming necessary.” For this, Kuzyakiv, Malmström and their team talked to researchers involved in such data and its understanding, to grasp what the specific needs could be in terms of data storage and retrieval, of software for analysis and tools for visualizing their results.

“IPortal is a hyper-friendly four-step system,” continues Kuzyakiv. Researchers can literally copy and paste their data into the system. They are then requested to annotate their datasets. “This is the part researchers tend to shy away from,” regrets Kuzyakiv. “But it is an essential part of the process; it gives you the means to identify and retrieve your work easily, for any future purpose.” Malmström adds: “The power of IPortal comes from the minimalistic design approach. All underlying components are under business-friendly open source licenses and most components have been around for a decade or more which means that they are both established and stable.”

Though still in its youth, IPortal has already been vital to a number of projects, the most recent of which had its results published in EMBO Reports in June this year. Currently, all users are based at the University of Zurich. When asked whether “outsiders” are able to benefit from IPortal, Kuzyakiv answers that it is something they are working on and that should happen during the course of 2019-2020.

 

Rostyslav Kuzyakiv currently works as a Data scientist at the Service and Support for Science IT (S3IT) Unit of the University of Zurich – an HPC and core facility of SIB.
After earning his MD in Ukraine in 2003, he practiced as a medical doctor before moving on to the University of Toronto where he became clinical project manager at the Toronto East General Hospital. Upon his return to Europe, he became a researcher at SIB in Geneva while also acting as clinical data manager at the Geneva University Hospital. Since 2014, at the S3IT, Kuzyakiv has supervised local and international projects, focusing on data management and bioinformatics applications for life science and medicine.

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