January image of the wall calendar

January 2024: Nicotiana benthamiana in beautiful colors

Our January-image was acquired during a microscopy course for master students in 2016 at the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf. It depicts pavement cells of Nicotiana benthamiana with multiple fluorescent markers, each corresponding to one cellular compartment. While a beautiful image, unfortunately its scientific value is limited, since information has been lost. Technical metadata can still be retrieved from the original image file, but the biological context of the sample is unknown since no metadata annotations were preserved. Specific information on the labelled proteins as well as the protocol for sample treatment and preparation prior to image acquisition are missing. Some of this context might still exist in old paper lab books, if they could be found, but retrieving them would take significant time and effort.

Consequently, this image will hardly become FAIR. Now, what does FAIR mean? FAIR is the acronym for ‘Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable’. For this image, I would say that it is certainly possible to make it findable and accessible, we could even make it interoperable to some degree, but it will be tough, if not impossible, to make it reusable. So, what could we do better? To conserve the scientific value of an image, proper and timely annotation of the (biological) metadata is necessary. Any information that is not written down or cannot be clearly assigned anymore 10 years from now is lost eventually. It is the key mission of the NFDI4BIOIMAGE consortium to enable researchers to make their data FAIR. For this, we aim to develop standards and provide technical solutions while our Data Stewards offer support to the bioimaging community.

So, I would like to propose a new year’s resolution for 2024: Let’s annotate all our images timely and carefully to make them FAIR and therefore preserve their scientific value for the future. Over the next months, NFDI4BIOIMAGE calendar pages will provide example images and experiences from across the FAIR spectrum. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Vanessa, Data Steward in the NFDI4BIOIMAGE consortium