The names of bioinformatics tools that help study evolution shouldn't feel that they also have to evolve

Thanks to Torsten Seemann for bringing this to my attention…

In 2003 a bioinformatics tool was published. A tool with a thoroughly sensible name and acronym:

A simple name with a simple, and not-too-bogus. initialism. Bravo. However, a subsequent update to BIBI brought about a change to the name:

  • le BIBI:

Where the 'le' refers to 'light edition'. It should be said that most references to this tool drop the superscript notation for 'le'. Let's move forward to the present day and the publication of another version of this tool:

The full expansion of this new name is as follows:

  • Light Edition Bioinformatics Bacterial Identification Tool Quick Bioinformatic Phylogeny of Prokaryotes

Quite a mouthful! Bonus points for including 'Bioinformatics' and 'Bioinformatic' as part of the same name, as well as the largely redundant inclusion of 'Bacterial' as well as 'Prokaryotes'.

Generally I find use of superscript in software names to be largely unnecessary. It can make the tool name harder to read and it is unlikely to reproduced verbatim by others who mention your software. Starting your software with a lowercase letter also means that this might appear in uppercase if used to start a sentence (as happens several times in the above paper). Not a terrible problem but it reduces the strength and consistency of your 'bioinformatics brand'.

And the award for needless use of subscript in the name of a bioinformatics tool goes to…

The following paper can be found in the latest issue of Bioinformatics:

MoRFs are molecular recognition features, and the tool that the authors developed to identify them is called:


So the tool's name includes a subscripted version of 'CHiBi', a name which is taken from the shorthand name for the Center for High-Throughput Biology at the University of British Columbia (this is where the software was presumably developed). The website for MoRFCHiBi goes one step further by describing something called the MoRFChiBi,mc predictor. I'm glad that they felt that some italicized text was just the thing to complement the subscripted, mixed case name.

The subscript seems to serve no useful purpose and just makes the software name harder to read, particularly because it combines a lot of mixed capitalization. It also doesn't help that 'ChiBi' can be read as 'kai-bye' or 'chee-bee'. I'm curious whether the CHiBi be adding their name as a subscripted suffix to all of their software, or just this one?

More mixed-case madness in the name of a bioinformatics tool

From the latest issue of Bioinformatics we have:

According to the abstract, the 'SUB' comes from subcellular, the 'A' comes from Arabidopsis, and the 'con' comes from 'consensus'. So why isn't it SUBACON? Maybe because people might then read it as 'sue bacon'?

It's not clear to me if this is meant to be pronounced 'soo-ba-con' or 'sub-ay-con'. The abstract then goes on to mention something called the ASURE portal (pronounced 'azure' or 'ay-sure'???), where ASURE = Arabidopsis SUbproteome REference.. If this was following the same rules as SUBAcon, shouldn't this be called ASUre (or even ASUBre)?