MIRA, MIRA on the wall: the problem of duplicated names in bioinformatics

So in addition to lots of bioinformatics tools that use bogus acronyms for their names, or which have very unpronounceable names, we now have a new problem…duplicate names. Rachel Glover (@rach_glover) tweeted this today:

The new MIRA tool (Mutual Information-based Reporter Algorithm for metabolic networks) is entirely unrelated to the existing MIRA tool which is a genome assembler that's been around for over 15 years.

It is not uncommon to need to search online for a bioinformatics tool. This can be complicated by the fact that many tools have names that are more commonly associated with other things (e.g. SHRiMP, ICEberg, HAMSTeRSPigeons, MOUSE, INSECT etc.). The first three examples also highlight that using mixed capitalization to help distinguish your bioinformatics tool from other things doesn't really help when you use a web search engine. 

One solution to this problem has always been to add the word 'bioinformatics' to your web search. However, if we start seeing more tools that share the same name, then this might not be that useful either.

Following Rachel's tweet, Torsten Seemann (@torstenseemann) had a suggestion:

I can't imagine that this would be an easy undertaking, but Alastair Kerr (@alastair_kerr) made a good follow-up point:

I think this is a great suggestion. Bioinformatics journals should perhaps state in their author guidelines that people should not duplicate the name of an existing (published) bioinformatics tool. Reviewer guidelines could also prompt the reviewer to check if this has happened (a simple web search of '<tool name> bioinformatics|genomics' would probably suffice).