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Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology

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Reproducible Research: A Bioinformatics Case Study

Robert Gentleman1

1Harvard University

Citation Information: Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Volume 4, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1544-6115, ISSN (Print) 2194-6302, DOI: 10.2202/1544-6115.1034, January 2005

Publication History

Published Online:

This article offers supplementary material which is provided at the end of the article.

While scientific research and the methodologies involved have gone through substantial technological evolution the technology involved in the publication of the results of these endeavors has remained relatively stagnant. Publication is largely done in the same manner today as it was fifty years ago. Many journals have adopted electronic formats, however, their orientation and style is little different from a printed document. The documents tend to be static and take little advantage of computational resources that might be available. Recent work, Gentleman and Temple Lang (2003), suggests a methodology and basic infrastructure that can be used to publish documents in a substantially different way. Their approach is suitable for the publication of papers whose message relies on computation. Stated quite simply, Gentleman and Temple Lang (2003) propose a paradigm where documents are mixtures of code and text. Such documents may be self-contained or they may be a component of a compendium which provides the infrastructure needed to provide access to data and supporting software. These documents, or compendiums, can be processed in a number of different ways. One transformation will be to replace the code with its output -- thereby providing the familiar, but limited, static document. In this paper we apply these concepts to a seminal paper in bioinformatics, namely The Molecular Classification of Cancer, Golub et al (1999). The authors of that paper have generously provided data and other information that have allowed us to largely reproduce their results. Rather than reproduce this paper exactly we demonstrate that such a reproduction is possible and instead concentrate on demonstrating the usefulness of the compendium concept itself.

Keywords: computational science; reproducibility; literate programming

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