1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Cesagen · Research

Tensions in an e-merging discipline: A survey of UK bioinformaticians

Jamie Lewis, Andrew Bartlett

Start date


Affiliated staff

Rebecca Dimond


Bioinformatics, in the broadest sense, is the application of computer science to biological problems. Bioinformatics is a vital part of the post-Human Genome Project life sciences and, as such, an understanding of bioinformatics cross-cuts all Cesagen themes. Bioinformaticians interviewed in previous research by Lewis and Bartlett reported concerns that bioinformatics is being positioned as a service discipline, that their arrangements in these collaborations limits prospects to lead both research and a publication, which risks alienating them from the traditional currency of the reward system of science. This is complicated by the fact that bioinformatics, arising at the intersection of biology and computer science, involves scientists from quite different backgrounds, who carry with them different interests, ambitions and disciplinary training.


The survey:
  1. Investigates the education and training backgrounds of UK researchers working in bioinformatics.
  2. Examines the attitudes towards the state and development of bioinformatics as a discipline.
  3. Explores the precarious nature of bioinformatics as a career pathway.
  4. Examines the reward and recognition structures of bioinformaticians.
  5. Explores the challenges to doing good bioinformatics work in the UK.


An online survey of 38 questions was sent to researchers and academics working in and around the area of bioinformatics in the UK. The survey was sent to 1000 potential participants from the Russell Group and 1994 Group universities. Over 300 completed the survey. The data produced by this survey is being prepared for analysis.

Project update

Emerging themes:

  1. Bioinformaticians rewards and recognition systems are different to those of biologists.
  2. The bioinformatics community has grown as a result of what Calvert (2010) calls ‘collaborative interdisciplinarity'.
  3. Many bioinformaticians believe they are being positioned as service providers to the biological sciences.

Further information

For further information, please contact