Who is bioinformatics for?

Leon, postdoc
Goal: to understand what makes a normally harmless bacterium pathogenic in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis. 
Task: "I'm using a combination of transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics to understand these pathogenic changes better."
Barend, plant geneticist
Goal: to identify new crop strains resistant to drought, salt and fungal diseases.
Task: "We're doing linkeage studies to find out which genes are involved in resistance to different types of stress. We've got genomic and expression QTLs that we need to map on to well-characterised plants".
Ola, clinician scientist
Goal: to identify proteomics-based biomarkers in urine for the early detection of bladder cancer.
Task: "I do mass spectrometry of samples from patients coming in for biopsies. I've found a phosphoprotein that seems to be upregulated in some patients."
Figure 2 The (fictional) personas illustrated here, whilst not bioinformaticians in the classical sense, all use bioinformatics to enable their research. Cartoons courtesy of Jenny Cham, EMBL-EBI.

The molecular life sciences have become increasingly data driven by and reliant on data sharing through open-access databases (1). This is as true of the applied sciences as it is of fundamental research. Furthermore, it is not necessary to be a bioinformatician to make use of bioinformatics databases, methods and tools. However, as the generation of large data-sets becomes more and more central to biomedical research, it’s becoming increasingly necessary for every molecular life scientist to understand what can (and, importantly, what cannot) be achieved using bioinformatics, and to be able to work with bioinformatics experts to design, analyse and interpret their experiments (Figure 2).

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