In the past few months I’ve been wondering about the state of bioinformatics and computational biology in general. When I attended the school in Bertinoro (as I wrote about previously). The development in this field can be regarded as quite astounding, just a look at journals like BMC Bioinformatics, Bioinformatics or others can give an insight of that.
However, and talks at Bertinoro seemed to confirm this impression, it looks like that many in the computational field forget that we’re talking about biology. Aside people that apply data analysis tecniques to different subjects (not only biology), that can be excused if they don’t know much about biological meaning, I think that a lot of people working in bioinformatics deal with biological data without knowing that it means.
In my opinion, this is a mistake that should be corrected. I understand that, for example, a computational biologist that works on algorithms to find transcription factor binding sites isn’t required to know the chemistry of the interaction between transcription factors and the DNA: however he/she should have a good knowledge of what ehnancers and silencers are, and at least an idea on how the transcription mechanism works.
It really puzzled me when a while ago there was someone talking about algorithms to find regions of aneuploidy (DNA copy number change) who talked about “disomy” and “trisomy” without actually knowing their meaning. Same for people that study docking and protein-protein interaction that know almost nothing about their targets.
Biologists in this field are making an effort to understand IT (I do my best to help my colleagues, for example), it would be nice if the computational field would do a similar effort.
Luca Beltrame SCIENCE