Our History

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 [email protected].

David Lovell - 14 July 2012

Key documents

Over the years, various reports and documents have been prepared about, or of relevance to bioinformatics in Australia. These include

We are keen to make all these documents available: if you can help us track them down, please [email protected]