Sharing and reusing biological images

Our databases hold millions of freely available bioimages. Here are a couple of examples of how they have been shared and reused.

Helping test algorithms

A resolution cryo-EM structure of beta-galactosidase in complex with a cell-permeant inhibitor

Sjors Scheres, research leader at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) and author of RELION, a widely used processing software for electron microscopy, was an early user of EMPIAR, both as submitter and reuser of data.

“EMPIAR is very useful: it provides us with new data to test and develop our algorithms. Relying only on in-house data provides a very limited view but, because EMPIAR contains data from different sources, it allows us a much wider exposure to tune our algorithms.”, explains Scheres. “Not having it would slow us down.”

EMPIAR hosts the data used for RELION tutorials and benchmarks. Scheres was also involved in a EM community map challenge, in which participants downloaded datasets from EMPIAR and processed them using different workflows and software to compare results.

Sharing screening data


Research institutes often find it difficult to store large datasets and make them publicly available. For this reason, Chris Bakal, research team leader at the Institute for Cancer Research, submitted data from his research to IDR.

“We want people to be able to reproduce our research results and re-analyze our data in their own way. For that, it is essential that people have access to the raw data. Databases such as IDR are an easy place to store it”, says Bakal, who deposited both image and quantitative screening data from his research in IDR. “Our research is supported by grants and public funds so it is important that our results are shared with the scientific community.”