Challenges and limitations of Bioinformatics: XI Bioinformatics Symposium at the PRBB

More than 225 people registered to the XI Bioinformatics Symposium, co-organised by the Spanish Institute of Bioinformatics (INB) and the Portuguese Bioinformatics Network and hosted by the PRBB. From yesterday, January 23 and until tomorrow, Jan 25 they will enjoy the talks of three keynote speakers and another 31 scientists, as well as more than 100 scientific posters.

Alfonso Valencia, director of the INB – and who had recently been at the PRBB for another bioinformatics meeting – explained at the inauguration that the aim of the conference, organized jointly with the Portuguese community for the last three years, was to stimulate collaborations between both countries and to grow as a community, something that seemed to have been achieved as evidenced by the record audience.

The event hosted a student symposium in the first morning, and a discussion session in the afternoon on the challenges and limitations for bioinformatics researchers.  One of the issues raised in this round table was how to deal with the large amounts of data that are being gathered, and Ana Rojas (IMPPC) mentioned that a centralized repository of all the data would be a good thing, but that funding is necessary –and nowadays very difficult to get! Another issue related to the sheer amount of data is the need for more computer power and in that sense a call was sent from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre to all scientists to make more use of the existing supercomputers in Europe.

Challenges of another nature were also discussed. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary area by nature. Its three pillars are molecular biology, mathematics/statistics/physics, and computer science/engineering. The difficulty of finding researchers that are trained in all three areas is large, but one of the speakers also mentioned the difficulties that those well-trained researchers meet during their career development.  A biologist doesn’t fit very well in a Computer Science department, nor an engineer in the Biology department. And the Impact Factor of the computer science journals is much lower than those of biology, so when fighting for a competitive position, computer scientists would always be in disadvantage…  all in all, everyone agreed that sooner or later, every experimental group will need to have a bioinformatics expert with them – or at least someone with a basic knowledge of data analysis who can speak ‘bioinformaticians’ language.

The XI Bioinformatics Symposium continues today and tomorrow – you can follow it in twitter at #jbi2012.

Report by Maruxa Martinez, Scientific Editor at the PRBB

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