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Practical Tools For Innovation
O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference
January 28-31, 2002 -- Tucson, AZ
Chambered Nautilus

Session

Requirements Analysis in Bioinformatics: Experiences in Communications between Computer and Life Scientists

Martina Stromvik, Post Doctoral Researcher, University of Minnesota's Center for Computational Genomics and Bioinformatics

Track: Discovery
Date: Wednesday, January 30
Time: 4:15pm - 5:00pm
Location: Canyon I

In keeping up with the burgeoning growth of genomic data, biologists and computer scientists are finding themselves expecting more and more from each other. For this to work, productive communication between computer and life scientists is critical. It is widely recognized that the ideal bioinformatics world is one with workers having broad backgrounds in both computers and biology, i.e. those who are comfortable speaking both "languages". This rare combination of required education was a wake up call to institutions that, in turn, began developing bioinformatics curriculum leading to new degree programs and certifications.

We have the practical issues facing us right now in regards to fostering working relationships between computer scientists and biologists and the cultural clashes that sometimes arise. Many of these issues can be dealt with from the onset as long as each group is willing to take an active role in communication. This presentation describes many of the experiences we have had from which we have learned to cultivate productive relationships between the computer and life scientists. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. defining the nature of the relationship (scientific collaboration vs. service provider and client?)
  2. managing expectations
  3. developing a common vocabulary
  4. email vs. face-to-face meetings
  5. general solutions vs. the exception to the rule
  6. managing egos (Don't tell me how to do my job!)
We hope that by relating some of our experiences and offering our solutions in dealing with these issues, we can provide a better understanding of what we can really expect from one another.

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