Bioinformatics, in Australia and worldwide, has come a long way in a short time.
Over the past few decades, new, faster, cheaper measurement methods (particularly in DNA sequencing) have dramatically increased the role of information sciences in biology.
Bioinformatics—which draws on disciplines including mathematics, informatics and statistics—underpins or enables most bioscience research today.
Despite its ubiquity, bioinformatics is fragmented.
In part, this may be because of how rapidly the volume and complexity of life science data has increased (i.e., much faster than life science research culture can comfortably adapt).
It may be because of the breadth and diversity of information sciences at play in biology, ranging from the hard-core computer science needed for efficient algorithms and data structures, through to the statistical understanding needed to make sound inference from bleeding-edge measurement technologies
It may also be because of the nature of biological science. As Carol Goble remarks:
"The biological science community is highly fragmented. Different disciplines act autonomously, producing data repositories and analytical tools that operate over them in isolation."
Bioinformatics in Australia has evolved from the efforts and contributions of many researchers, institutions and enterprises, and with support from Australia's federal, state and territory governments.
Throughout this evolution, leaders in the Australian Bioinformatics Community have sought to address the fragmented nature of bioinformatics. The current Australian Bioinformatics Network is, in fact, in its second incarnation: the first having formed as a project under the auspices of Bioinformatics Australia and AusBiotech. Most of the issues set out in the project's Final Report and Executive Summary are still highly relevant and challenging to bioinformatics and bioscience, nationally and globally.
For more detail, Genome-Scale Computational Biology and Bioinformatics in Australia by Mark Ragan, Tim Littlejohn, and Bruce Ross gives a useful snapshot of bioinformatic and computational genome-scale biology in Australia circa 2008.
Much has happened since and we welcome anyone who would like to provide more recent history to talk.to.us@AustralianBioinformatics.Net.
David Lovell - 14 July 2012
Over the years, various reports and documents have been prepared about, or of relevance to bioinformatics in Australia. These include
NHMRC Research Committee, ARC & CSIRO (2000) Report of the bioinformatics review working group (“the Pittard Report”).
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services (2001) Bioprospecting: discoveries changing the future (“the Bailey Inquiry”).
Commonwealth DITR (2002) Bioinformatics: Issues and Opportunities for Australia. Emerging Industries Occasional Paper No. 15 (“the Littlejohn Report”).
- NHMRC Research Committee, ARC, CSIRO & Biotechnology Australia (2002) Bioinformatics workshop summary of issues.
- NHMRC Research Committee, ARC, CSIRO, Biotechnology Australia & Environment Australia (2002) Development, support and funding of bioinformatics in Australia: options paper.
- Commonwealth DITR Bioinformatics Expert Task Force (2003) Interim bioinformatics report: Input into the evaluation of the National Biotechnology Strategy.
- Commonwealth DITR (2004) Survey of Australian bioinformatics organisations.
- Biotechnology Australia (2005) National bioinformatics strategy.
- NCRIS Committee (2006) National collaborative research infrastructure strategy: strategic roadmap.
- NCRIS Committee (2006) Evolving biomolecular platforms and informatics: investment plan.
- e-Research Coordinating Committee (2006) An Australian e-research strategy and implementation framework.
- DIISR (2008) Strategic roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure
- EMBL Australia (2009) Bioinformatics for the future (“the Birney report”).
- Australian eResearch Infrastructure Council (2010) Meeting Australia’s research workforce needs.
- DIISR (2011) Strategic roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure.
We are keen to make all these documents available: if you can help us track them down, please talk.to.us@AustralianBioinformatics.Net