Defining Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that combines biology, computer science and mathematics to analyze and interpret biological data. As an interdisciplinary field its borders can’t be fashioned easily, there are a lot of different definitions provided by pioneers in this field. There are also many different fields that overlap with bioinformatics substantially e.g. biomedical engineering, systems biology, computation biology etc. All these fields overlap each other very frequently and researchers generate their own definitions depending on main goals. If we look on different definitions of bioinformatics by experts it varies depending on his domain of research. I have summarized some major definitions below:

A tight definition of bioinformatics is provided by Fred J Tekaia at the Institute Pasteur offers: "The mathematical, statistical and computing methods that aim to solve biological problems using DNA and amino acid sequences and related information".

Another loose definition of bioinformatics is defined by Richard Durbin, Head of Informatics at the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute: "I do not think all biological computing is Bio-Informatics, e.g. mathematical modeling is not Bio-Informatics, even when connected with biology-related problems. In my opinion, Bio-Informatics has to do with management and the subsequent use of biological information, particular genetic information."

The NIH Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative Consortium agreed on the following definitions of Bio-Informatics and computational biology recognizing that no definition could completely eliminate overlap with other activities or preclude variations in interpretation by different individuals and organizations.

Bio-Informatics is research, development, or application of computational tools and approaches for expanding the use of biological, medical, behavioral or health data, including those to acquire, store, organize, archive, analyze, or visualize such data.

Computational Biology is the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, behavioral, and social systems.

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI 2001) defines bioinformatics as: "Bio-Informatics is the field of science in which biology, computer science, and information technology merge into a single discipline. There are three important sub-disciplines within bio-informatics:

The development of new algorithms and statistics with which to assess relationships among members of large data sets

The analysis and interpretation of various types of data including nucleotide and amino acid sequences, protein domains, and protein structures

The development and implementation of tools that enable efficient access and management of different types of information"

Finally Oxford dictionary defined bioinformatics as “The science of collecting and analyzing complex biological data such as genetic codes.”

Each definition of bioinformatics is as good as the other. This is just the nature of the beast. Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the topic.

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