History of Transformer

The history behind theTransformer project is, in short, another one of chance and necessity. Necessity came along with the growing bulk of data analyses related to the research projects under way at the Departamento de Biodiversidad Molecular y Banco de ADN of the Jardín Botánico Canario «Viera y Clavijo» - Unidad Asociada CSIC (JBCVCSIC), that triggered the creation of a Transformer-1 by Juli Caujapé-Castells back in 2001. Though suitable enough to bypass a number of burdensome, error-prone and time-consuming aspects of molecular population genetic data analysis, that first version was still too clunky to be released to the scientific community without shame. Therefore, it was only operated by Juli in his personal computer.

Perhaps the chance to further develop the ideas behind the Transformer project wouldn't have turned up had it not been by Eugenio Reyes, an educator at the JBCVCSIC. This person put Juli in contact with Gonzalo Piernavieja, Juan Francisco Rodríguez and Izzat Sabbagh, three researchers at the Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC), who generously accepted the "offer" of helping develop a better Transformer in the absence of funding. After several meetings, discussions, and failures, the programming was undertaken by Mario Baccarani-Rosas, thanks to whose collaboration Transformer-2 came to be (Caujapé-Castells and Baccarani-Rosas 2004).

In that version, programmed in visual basic on an Excel spreadsheet, a lot of effort was devoted to the data entry formats and to the population grouping protocols. Its main success was the development of a versatile allozyme annotation system that allowed users to easily draw, store, and correct their gel interpretations; furthermore, it automatically genotyped the individuals from the drawing, thereby avoiding otherwise frequent human errors in the assignation of allele mobilities or genotyping. However, it was only suitable for co-dominant molecular markers.

Transformer-3 was released shortly afterwards (Caujapé-Castells and Baccarani-Rosas 2005) to allow the processing of both dominant and co-dominant molecular data matrices, and maintaining the allozyme drawing capabilities that were so much welcome by the scientists that use this technique.

Transformer-4 (T4) is no longer an Excel spreadsheet, but an independent open-source software platform conceived at the Departamento de Biodiversidad Molecular of the JBCVCSIC (Cabildo de Gran Canaria) and programmed in JAVA by a team from the ITC (Gobierno de Canarias) and the companies Jablesoft and Inventiaplus. It allows the fast and easy transformation of dominant or co-dominant genotype data matrices of any size (and for any possible combination of the populations they refer to) in the input formats of most population genetic analysis softwares. This way, the researcher overcomes burdensome software formatting difficulties and can devote his/her time to his/her main mission: the analysis and discussion of results. 

Furthermore, T4 is the only way to initiate the publication of genetic diversity digests in Demiurge.