Introducing JABBA: Just Another Bogus Bioinformatics Acronym

For too long I have stood on the sidelines and remained silent. For too long I have witnessed atrocities and said nothing. For too long I have watched while people have maimed, mangled, and monkeyed around with the names of bioinformatics databases and tools.

Things have gone too far and I can remain silent no longer. As of today, I vow to bring these abominable appellations to justice. There are many, many bioinformatics tools and databases out there and while I accept that they all need a name, I don't accept that every name has to be an acronym (or initialism). This is especially so when the acronym appears to be formed from the awkward assembly of letters from the full name of the software/database.

Just as Jonathan Eisen has given the world the Badomics awards, I think it is time for me to introduce the Just Another Bogus Bioinformatics Acronym award, or JABBA for short. The inaugural winner of the JABBA award goes to a bioinformatics tool that's just been described in a new publication in Nucleic Acids Research:

BeAtMuSiC: prediction of changes in protein–protein binding affinity on mutations

Just take a moment to let that name sink in. If you are like me, you might be wondering how 'prediction of changes in protein-protein binding affinity on mutations' could give rise to 'BeAtMuSiC'. But before we get to that, lets consider the three principle ways in which you can form a bad name for a bioinformatics tool, and lets see how 'BeAtMuSiC' achieves the triple-whammy:

  1. Choose a shortened name for your tool that is cute, funny, or unusual but which bears no relationship at all to bioinformatics. This gives you the added bonus of making it that much harder to find with a Google Search
  2. Introduce some capitalization into your shortened name to make it so much less pleasing on the eye
  3. Make no effort to ensure that your shortened name is a proper acronym and instead, just pick letters seemingly at random from the full name of your bioinformatics tool or database.

The latter point is worth dwelling on. The BeAtMuSiC name suggests that the full name of this tool will include the letters: B, A, M, S, and C. You might also assume that these letters in the shortened name would occur in the same order in the full name! But you would be wrong. A quick trip to the BeAtMuSiC website reveals that a) they really like the music theme and b) there is no logic to how this tool has been named.

The full name of this tool — as described on the website — is 'prediction of Binding Affinity Changes upon MutationS'. This is slightly different to the the subtitle of the paper described above, but lets assume the website version is the definitive arrangement of the name. The website shows how the 'C' in BeAtMuSiC can come before the 'M' and 'S' in the full name, because they put 'upon MutationS' on a second line of text in such a way that reveals that they are only considering the horizontal spacing of characters. Genius!

2013-06-23 at 5.02.07 PM.png

Congratulations, are the inaugural winner of the JABBA award! I am saddened by the knowledge that there will be many more that will follow.

Update June 24th: Mick Watson pointed out to me on twitter that my idea of only considering the horizontal arrangement of letters still doesn't work. He's right. The 'C' ends up in the right place but you also have the 'M' before the 'A'. So in summary, nothing about this name makes sense.