Scientists at TGAC, alongside European partners, have created BioJavaScript (BioJS), a free open source community for the lifesciences. BioJS is an accessible software library that develops visualisation tools for different types of biological data.

Drawing upon reusable components to visualise and analyse biological data on the web, BioJS data is freely available to users and developers where they can modify, extend and redistribute the software with few restrictions, at no cost. With a vision for ‘every online biological dataset in the world should be visualised with BioJS tools’, the community hopes to achieve the largest, most comprehensive repository of JavaScript tools to visualise online biological data, available for all.

Existing open-source biological data repositories are littered with abandoned projects that have failed to gain the support needed to continue on past the initial funding and enthusiasm. Therefore, with BioJS, buy-in from the lifesciences community is critical; to present such a suite of tools capable of displaying biological data requires expertise and capacity that is beyond working in isolated groups.

BioJS was initially developed in 2013 through a collaboration between TGAC and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). Starting of as a small set of individual graphical components in a bespoke register, it has evolved to a suite of more than 100 data visualisation tools with a combined download of near to 185k. A community of 41 code contributors spread across four continents, a Google Group forum with more than 150 members, and 15 published papers with multiple citations. 

BioJS has been designed so that potential contributors face a limited amount of technical requirements. The user needs to know JavaScript, but are not required to understand the core system. Users can work on multiple projects at once, allowing the user to work independently in creating their own data visualisation components.

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