Assembling a twitter following: people continue to be interested in genome assembly

Late in 2010, I was asked to help organise what would initially become The Assemblathon and then more formally Assemblathon 1. One of the very first things I did was to come up with the name itself — more here on naming bioinformatics projects — register the domain name, and secure the Twitter account @Assemblathon.

The original goal was to use the website and Twitter account to promote the contest and then share details of how the competition was unfolding. This is exactly what we did, all the way through to the publication of the Assemblathon 1 paper in late 2011. Around this time it seemed to make sense to also use the Twitter account to promote anything else related to the field of genome assembly and that is exactly what I did.

As well as tweeting a lot about Assemblathon 2 and a little bit about the aborted but oh-so-close-to-launching Assemblathon 3, I have found time to tweet (and retweet) several thousand links to many relevant publications and software tools.

It seems that people are finding this useful as the account keeps gaining a steady trickle of followers. The graph below shows data from when I started tracking the follower growth in early 2014:

All of which leaves me to make two concluding remarks:

  1. There can be tremendous utility in having an outlet — such as a Twitter account — to focus on a very niche subject (maybe some would say that genome assembly is no longer a niche field?).
  2. Although I am no longer working on the Assemblathon projects — I'm not even a researcher any more — I'm happy to keep posting to this account as long as people find it useful.

Assemble a genome and evaluate the result [Link]

There is a new page on the bioboxes site (such a great name!) which details how bioboxes can be used to assemble a genome and then evaluate the results:

A common task in genomics is to assemble a FASTQ file of reads into a genome assembly and followed by evaluating the quality of this assembly. This recipe will explore using bioboxes to do this task.

A third Assemblathon contest came very close to launching earlier this year…except that it didn't — maybe this will be the subject of a future blog post! — and we planned to make biobox containers a requisite part of submitting assemblies. If Assemblathon 3 ever gets off the ground I feel happier knowing that the bioboxes team is doing so much great work that will make running such a contest easier to manage.

Metassembler: Merging and optimizing de novo genome assemblies

There's a great new paper in bioRxiv by Alejandro Hernandez Wences and Michael Schatz. They directly address something I wondered about as we were running the Assemblathon contests. Namely, can you combine some of the submitted assemblies to make an even better assembly? Well the answer seems to be a resounding 'yes'.

For each of three species in the Assemblathon 2 project we applied our algorithm to the top 6 assemblies as ranked by the cumulative Z-score reported in the paper…

We evaluated the correctness and contiguity of the metassembly at each merging step using the metrics used by the Assemblathon 2 evaluation…

In all three species, the contiguity statistics are significantly improved by our metassembly algorithm

Hopefully their Metassembler tool will be useful in improving many other poor quality assemblies that are out there!