‘For life scientists with expertise and an interest in bioinformatics, computer science, statistics, and related skill sets, the job outlook couldn’t be rosier. Big pharma, biotech, and software companies are clamoring to hire professionals with experience in bioinformatics and the identification, compilation, analysis, and visualisation of huge amounts of biological and health care information’ says Science.
Nature, in April 2016, wrote about this new species of biologist in an interesting article, Biology goes digital.
The Scientist’s annual Life Sciences Salary Survey has continued to report growth in salaries and employment opportunities in the fields of bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, and neurosciences. This trend continued throughout the economic downturn from 2008. The growth is attributed to the increasing requirements for informatics components in large projects and the continued surge in high-throughput experiments and a corresponding demand for employees who can manage and interpret the data.
The Scientist’s 2015 Life Sciences Salary Survey further affirmed these trends although some areas and groups are benefitting more than others. No doubt is remains a stimulating and hot field.
There is a rapidly growing number of professionals working in these emerging fields, both internationally and locally. Dr Tony Papenfuss, Laboratory Head, Bioinformatics at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne is featured in a Careers in Maths series produced by AMSI.
What is Bioinformatics?
‘Bioinformatics is the application of information technologies and sciences to the organisation, management, mining and use of life-science information.’ (Australian Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources 2002)
The term ‘life-science information’ includes genetic, molecular, cellular, specimen, epidemiological and biodiversity information. Activities encompassed by bioinformatics include: ‘all aspects of gathering, storing, handling, analysing, interpreting and spreading vast amounts of biological information in databases.’ (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services 2001)
…Bioinformatics is also referred to in life-science literature as biological informatics, biomedical computing, computational biology or bio-IT….the definition adopted … is broad, including both microbioinformatics (e.g. involving the use of genomic or proteomic data) and macrobioinformatics (e.g. species/biodiversity informatics, health/medical informatics).
[The definition should] be broad enough to cater for future trends and applications of bioinformatics. Currently, as some stakeholders have observed, bioinformatics definitions reflect the primacy of genomics and proteomics and often exclude biodiversity and health informatics.
Many international comparisons do not consider macrobioinformatics. However, bioinformatics has shown some capacity to go beyond the sum of biology and IT and include physical sciences (mathematics, physics and chemistry) and medicine, with powerful implications for not only biodiversity, but also drug design and personalised medicine.
(National Bioinformatics Strategy 2005, Australia, p.10)