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{bio,medical} informatics

Monday, December 17, 2001

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find related articles. powered by google. Fast Company Roche's New Scientific Method

""We used to look at several data points for each experiment," says Louis Renzetti, senior director of discovery pharmacology. "Now there are dozens and dozens." Simply dump all of that data on a scientist's desk, and one of two tragicomic things will happen: Either the scientist will want to pursue every promising lead and will end up like a frazzled amusement-park visitor, or the scientists will refuse to touch the report at all, for fear that she will never be able to make sense of it.

It has taken a while to find the right approach, says James Rosinski, one of Roche's experts in the new field of bioinformatics, which covers the management of genomic data. The key, he says, is for biologists and statisticians to start talking early about how to use data from a GeneChip experiment. "It's iterative," he explains. "We can't just take a one-shot approach and tell the biologists what they ought to be interested in. We have to interact.""

redux [04.05.00]
find related articles. powered by google. HMS Beagle Are Computers Evolving in Biology?
[requires 'free' registration]

"I suspect that although the new enthusiasm for computers in biology is genuine, it overlooks some basic problems in implementation. The basic difficulty, as I see it, is that although biologists use computers, they do not trust everything that comes out of them. It is one thing to use them to print up nice-looking graphs, but it is an entirely different matter to use them to think better."

"Francis Crick was once quoted as saying that no biologist had ever made a discovery using a mathematical model. I would reply that no biologist has ever made a discovery by running an electrophoretic gel. They make discoveries by using their brains. Computers, like all scientific tools, are only as good as the person who uses them. If biologists don't understand how computer models are constructed, they won't know their strengths and limitations. Without some foundation of trust, biologists will be unlikely to utilize or accept this powerful method of data analysis."

[ rhetoric ]

Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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