The Rise of Bioinformatics
82 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2009
Date Written: April 28, 2003
The thesis studies the emergence of bioinformatics as a new scientific discipline. More specifically, it studies the rise in bioinformatics degree programs in recent years. I argue that the massive effort to sequence all DNA of human beings, the Human Genome Project (HGP) is the main culprit. The HGP needed bioinformatics to provide to tools to obtain, store and analyze DNA sequences. The fact that bioinformatics education offerings emerged just at the time when HGP was at full throttle suggests that the offerings were triggered by the demand generated by the HGP. Granted, one can identify internal forces within bioinformatics that would eventually make the development of degree programs a logical thing to do, but none of these forces are likely to have led to the emergence of degree programs at the end of the 1990s had the HGP not existed. Similarly, there may have been some problems with the supply of people with bioinformatics skills due to rigidities in the system or ineptness of life scientists, but without the rapid rise in demand they would not have surfaced. For, a continuous and rapid rise in demand really did take place. Most of it was due to industry demand, but this demand itself was triggered by the exuberant expectations of firms in the biotechnology industry that were created by the launch of the HGP and the ensuing race with Celera to sequence the human genome. It is an open question whether the emergence of so many degree programs dedicated to bioinformatics during the nineties was a good or bad thing. In any case, the U.S. Congress would have been unlikely to be able to anticipate this chain of events, had it sought to consider the effects that would flow from its approval of the Human Genome bill in 1987.
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