Structural biologists use a variety of software tools to help their work, from data collection, through the creation of structural models, to finding biological significance in the results. Some of these tools work together well, with seamless data transfer and a consistent user interface. Others do not, often because they have been developed separately, by groups that are part of different subdisciplines of structural biology, e.g. X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Now structural biologists are targeting mesoscale structures including the macromolecular machinery of the cell. Increasingly often, they combine different techniques in a single large research project, aiming to create multiscale models. This raises the challenge to software developers of working together to create an integrated and extensible toolset that supports a range of experimental techniques, as well as modelling and simulation methods.
Such a toolset will also allow synergy between researchers beyond planned collaborations, by ensuring for example that a model that has been deposited in a public database can easily be reused within an investigation that is based on complementary techniques.
This network will discuss such challenges, including topics like these:* comparing notes about technological challenges* discussing biological challenges, from a software perspective* discussing standards for data interchange* identifying opportunities to share effort.
The H2020 project "West-Life: structures for Life" is working to address these issues. To learn more about West-Life go to http://about.west-life.eu/.