It is no secret that imaging, and microscopy in particular, represents a substantial fraction of the manuscripts published in Nature Methods. Our very first focus issue, in fact, was on fluorescence imaging. When that focus was published in 2005 the term ‘bioimage informatics’ didn’t even exist. Even today, the term isn’t widely used and, unlike many other bioinformaticians, those who work on the development of algorithms and software tools for analysis of biological image data have few dedicated venues for discussing or publishing their work.
But computational techniques are becoming increasingly important in biological imaging and the people developing these tools increasingly see themselves as a distinct community. When we approached the community about publishing a focus issue on bioimage informatics there was an enthusiastic response and the results can be seen in our July issue and focus that went live today.
We hope that biologists using microscopy in their research find the information in the focus useful and that it stimulates them to try some of the tools now available and in development. Many of these tools have functionality designed to encourage community participation and aid in both the creation of new analysis methods and the communication of methods and protocols to other users.
Although these tools and the community developing them have come a long way since Wayne Rasband first released NIH Image, bioimage informatics is still in its relative infancy. As discussed in the focus editorial, algorithm development and usage will become even more important for biological microscopy and will change the way biologists perform and report their research.