Last week, in our “Introduction to Informatics” class, we discussed system science. System science, as defined by George Klir, is 1

  1. What systems scientists do when they claim they do sciences
  2. field of scientific inquiry whose objects of study are systems

The instructor, Professor Luis Rocha, student of Klir, tried to define INFORMATICS in the same way, but if we use the first definition, we then needed to answer the questions such as who are informaticians? for the 2nd definition, we couldn’t agree on what our objects of study are. We, the students, are Ph.D. students from different tracks – HCI/D, chemical informatics, security informatics, social informatics and complex systems. Rocha, a system scientist, considered informatics as applied system science. Personally I have answered this question several times to my friends, but I could never find the best answer. Sometimes, my answer depends on who I talk to – a biologist, chemist, librarian, or my wife (who is studying public affairs) Rocha pointed out that maybe there is no definite definition of informatics – because it’s such an interdeciplinary field, because it’s new. But, you are among the people who are defining it. That sounds a little exciting :)The field I am studying, chemical informatics, aka chemoinformatics, cheminformaics – well, we can’t even agree on the name -, has been defined. Gasteiger’s defination is 2: the application of informatics methods to solve chemical problems. From this definition, our objects of study is chemical problems. From another course, introduction to chemical informatics, my advisor, Dr. David Wild has a slightly broader different defination 3: Cheminformatics (a.k.a. chemical informatics or chemoinformatics) is the branch of informatics dealing with all aspects of the representation and use of Chemical structures and related information, on computer.Finally, Frank Brown’s definition, IMHO, is narrowed to knowledge discovery in drug development4: the mixing of those information resources to transform data into information and information into knowledge for the intended purpose of making better decisions faster in the area of drug lead identification and optimization.Reference:

  1. Klir, G. J. Facets of Systems Science (IFSR International Series on Systems Science and Engineering); Springer: 2001.
  2. Gasteiger, J.;  Engel, T.,  Eds.; Chemoinformatics: A Textbook; Wiley VCH: 2003.
  3. Wild, D. Introducing Chemical Informatics, I571 2007 Lecture 1, http://cheminfo.informatics.indiana.edu/djwild/I571_2007_01.pdf (accessed Sep 24, 2008)
  4. Brown, F. K.;  Bristol, J. A. Chapter 35. Chemoinformatics: What is it and How does it Impact Drug Discovery.. In , Vol. Volume 33; Academic Press: 1998.

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