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Bioinformatics

Though the term bioinformatics has been around for something over a decade and a quick AltaVista search turned up more than 400,000 hits for the word, it has not yet reached any dictionary that I know of. That’s because, though it is a field with a high public profile, it is also a field which is still rapidly developing, and one that is as yet ill-defined. You can tell that by the way people are still arguing about what it covers. Some, such as the National Institutes for Health in the US, take it to be a general term for any use of computers to handle biological information in a wide variety of fields, including medicine. But it has been applied much more tightly in recent years to the use of computers to organise and interpret the vast amount of data that is coming out of the Human Genome Project. Yet a third definition says it is the science of developing computer databases and algorithms for the purpose of speeding up and helping biological research (which includes the second definition, but is a good deal broader). Whatever it’s about, someone who does it is called a bioinformaticist, less commonly a bioinformatician.

Although analysts estimate that bioinformatics will grow into a $2 billion industry in the next five years, most IT companies believe the payoffs will be much higher.

Business Week, Apr. 2001

Susan Baker, workforce director at the Northern Virginia Technology Council, says many companies are turning to areas such as bioinformatics, which marries technology with biology.

Washington Post, Apr. 2001

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 12 May 2001

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 12 May 2001.