‘Bioinformatics: Gone in 2012’

That was the name of a talk that Lincoln Stein gave at the O’Reilly Bioinformatics Conference in 2003.  I remember this conference really well for several reasons, including that talk….We were just starting our company (firmly in bioinformatics) and this was not exactly what I wanted to hear.  It was also the first time I remember meeting Jim Kent–and it led to our interest in the UCSC Genome Browser which has since been really important for us.

It’s funny–I had recently been re-reading something else about that conference because of a friend on a non-science blog….John Sundman was telling me about this as we were discussing his book Acts of the Apostles, and we were discussing this article he also wrote in Salon about this conference.

In a strange collision of all these threads in my life, I was checking the My NCBI list I get each week and found that Lincoln had updated his thoughts on this topic in the new Genome Biology.

Bioinformatics: alive and kicking http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19133107

ABSTRACT: Bioinformatics has become too central to biology to be left to specialist bioinformaticians. Biologists are all bioinformaticians now.

Well, this was a delightful revision of the earlier prediction I must say. Although his emphasis is on folks who come with a stronger computational side and are now hybridizing that with benchwork biology, I think there are also more and more biologists–without formal computational training–who are ratcheting up their skills and becoming stronger with the tools as end users.  I think there’s a really nice place in the middle for everyone.  And we think it is a nice place to be.  There are a lot of people in the bio pipeline who didn’t have access to the courses and programs Lincoln references in his article. We know, we see them in the UCSC trainings we give all over the place.  And we are teaching them how to do custom tracks to display their own data.  And they are eager to do it.

Alive and kicking.  Agreed.

Opinion: Bioinformatics: alive and kicking. Lincoln Stein.  Genome Biology 2008, 9:114 doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-12-114

Original image credit:  The Human Genome Project Timeline contains major milestones in genomics from 1865 to 2003. Darryl Leja, NHGRI. Available here: http://www.genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=38