Brussels, 17 Sep 2003
Top European experts gathered earlier this year to discuss the future of bioinformatics research. An overview of contributions and commentaries is now available in the proceedings from the workshop.
Over 20 leading bioinformatics experts attended a workshop in March this year aimed at building an overall picture of this growing field. The aim of the event was also to provide policy-makers and organisations at EU and national levels with guidelines and actions for structuring future bioinformatics research.
Participants in the workshop were set several tasks which included providing a review of existing bioinformatics-related projects, analysing the scientific community's needs in this area, improving understanding of how genetic information is processed 'downstream', and discussing possible scientific developments in the domain. The 89-page final report entitled 'Bioinformatics – structures for the future' was published in June by the Health Research directorate of the Commission based on the proceedings of the two-day workshop held in Brussels.
A full account
Bioinformatics is where information meets biology. In theory, it describes any use of computers to handle biological information. But, in practice, the definition used by most researchers is much narrower: using computers to characterise the molecular components of living organisms, or 'computational molecular biology'.
Advances in molecular biology have led to a rapid sequencing of large portions of the genomes of many species, including numerous bacterial genomes, such as E. coli, as well the full sequencing of some important model eukaryotes, such as yeast, worms, and flies. As this genetic information builds up it necessitates new strategies for storage, organisation and analysis of large and complex datasets.
The summary and conclusions from the workshop sought to answer the question: What are the policy issues under discussion and what is the current thinking? The findings were structured into several key issues, including problems and current solutions, research funding policy options, statements of research policy general principles, specific near-term policy recommendations and long-term changes, as well as future areas of discussion.
The report gives a full account of various papers delivered by eminent figures in the bioinformatics field. One of the meeting Chairs, Jaap Heringa of Free University Amsterdam (NL), presented a paper called 'Bioinformatics as an integrative science'. Other topics presented included 'Research-driven infrastructures' by Soren Brunak of Technical University Denmark, 'Bioinformatics – biology by other means' by Alfonso Valencia of the National Centre of Biotechnology in Madrid (ES), as well as commentaries and session summaries.
The workshop was organised by the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, in the context of a series of workshops supporting the European Research Area and the 'Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' theme in the Sixth Framework Programme for research.
More information: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/headl ines/index_en.cfm