Bell Eapen MD, PhD.

Bringing Digital health & Gen AI research to life!

The art of taking online help:

I am not a big time researcher with lots of international experience. However I would like to make an attempt to suggest few guidelines for the young Indian bioinformatician, seeking online help for project or showcasing their profile online.

How to address a researcher online? Generally in research community, people are not bothered much about show of respect. Hence sir, respected sir, the most adorable etc can be translated to lack of confidence or to too much submissiveness. Hence it is appropriate to address anybody by the second name adding the appropriate title. Just using the first name is also OK. However title is often taken seriously and addressing a Dr/Prof as Mr is a cardinal sin even if you add a liberal dose of sir/almighty to that.

Career guidance is often done face to face or over the phone or through forums specifically dedicated for that. However before posting career guidance questions to forums search the forum for similar questions unless your profile is unique. Questions like I am going to finish my Kinder Garden What should I do next to become a successful bioinformatician is unlikely to fetch many answers. If you dont have enough time to search the forum, dont expect anybody else to send a personal two page letter to you.

The same applies to very broad, open ended questions. Questions like How is bioinformatics important for clinical medicine? is unlikely to get much attention. Be as specific as possible. Do not expect others to provide complete answers in a platter. Answers will be mostly very short, incomplete and often cryptic (because you may not know what the other person is talking about). Be ready to do some background research on the answer rather than asking for more information.

Posting your profile in online forums is also an art. Bioinformatics is a very broad field and employers look for certain specific skills which you may not always have. I often see sequence analysis, genomics, proteiomics, computer programming, PERL, RUBY, EMERALD, systems biology, drug designing, structural and molecular biology, talking, reading and sleeping in the skill set, everyone competing to make the complete list. In reality, no body can be a complete bioinformatician and it is better to showcase your core competency which needs to be substantiated by your projects or publications.

Please post your comments / criticisms / suggestions here.