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What is Informatics?

Dima Klenchin klenchin at REMOVE_TO_REPLY.facstaff.wisc.edu
Thu Jan 18 10:07:11 EST 2001

In article <OF04596E45.00C2274F-ON852569D6.004EE13F at ms.bd.com>, 
Bill_A_Nussbaumer at ms.bd.com wrote:
:I sense a resistance, in this and another post, to the formation of
:bioinformatics as a separate and distinct discipline.  It's true that
:bioinformatics aims at the same questions that traditional molecular lab
:techniques do (although increasingly in a more global sense).  I see the
:use of computers as an additional tool to speed and focus biological
:research.  I think it's well recognized and accepted in the
:"bioinformatics" community that computer prediction cannot and assuredly
:will never replace lab science, only compliment it.  However, computer
:science is a very distinct field from biology and as such, the merger of
:the two sciences requires a very different and specialized skill set.  I
:think this calls for a separate logical designation for those practicing
:specifically in the discipline of computational management and analysis
:biological data.
:Language is the only way we have to communicate with one another and
:language generally requires that "things" (whether they be physically real
:or conceptual) have common names and definitions to effectively talk about
:them.  Is there a better name than bioinformatics?  There's nothing to keep
:portions of one field from spilling into other fields.  Why do we designate
:between biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, or even physics?
:They all certainly have some overlap and intermesh one way or another.  But
:they are also distinct enough that people feel it necessary to conceptually
:separate them.  This is surely a big debate and not one that is unique to

All true. It comes down to semantics (sp.?). My $0.02. The sense of 
resistance you noticed is very real and has a lot to do with the 
fact that many people (myself included) get irritated when others 
invent new buzz words totally unnecessarily (as far as the subject -
- science in this particular case - is concerned, and do so solely 
for the purpose of achieving some extraneous (sp.?) goals - funding, 
recognition, new labs, more jobs, etc, ect.
Unfortunately, this is inevitable - that's the way "real world" 
works. Still irritating if you ask me. One of the prime examples
of the same from the past is "bioorganic chemistry", which,
if the rumor  has it right was invented as a separate "discipline" 
in order to allow creation of the new department for some of
the big bosses out there. Another example is "proteomics". 
Now, what the heck is PROTEOMICS? Whenever I see the 
term in some flashy publications, it always comes in three 
ways: a modern day analogue of 18th century zoology cataloging 
proteins, a normal daily life biochemistry as we all know it for 
decades, or - the worst case - a curtain to hide the lack of ideas 
all the while acquiring large sums of money. I don't think
any of the three warrant a new term in the dictionary. 

        - Dima

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