In article <9103191019.AA06674 at genbank.bio.net>, ODONNELL at arcb.afrc.ac.uk writes:
>> People learn to use what they need. Anyone who can design and
>>perform a subcloning experiment - with all the steps required to
>>isolate fragments, match ends, ligate, and transform - can figure out
>>how to login, check a directory, edit a file, and run the sequence
>>analysis programs on unix or VMS. Anyone who is doing a sequencing
>>project MUST learn to the machine. So they do.
>> A short reply:
>> If only that statement were true! Most users' experience is to the contrary,
> and surely what sparked the whole debate off. The point is that DESPITE the
> high level of ability in one area, many biologists find the use of computers
> a difficult task.
>> Biologists typically do not login frequently enough to keep up with all the
> minor changes that are made to the system. The analogy of riding a bike,
> using a power tool etc - People don't change the position of the handle bars,
> the brakes and pedals since the last time you rode it.
>> Research scientists typically spend several weeks or months in the lab
> gathering data (ligating, running gels etc), then turn to the computer.
> "Ah, now what did I do last time?....". If they remember, it sometimes won't
> work anyway because someone has 'improved' something. So the PERCEPTION of
> many (certainly not all) is that computers only make life harder, and that
> programmers etc only seek to find new ways of confusing users.
I am afraid I must agree with Bill Pearson. I am a biologist and have
no formal training of any sort in computing. Several years ago computers
were a total black box to me. Then came the day when I needed not only
a computer but a programme and noone else to write it for me.
I learnt to drive a VAX and to programme in Fortran in 3 weeks - if you
really want to do it you can! Now I can operate unix machines, dos machines
VAXes, Macs and can programme in fortran, C etc. If you want to do it you
can! Its the desire that is lacking and the feeling that computing
may be harder than molecular biology. It is not. I have learnt both the
As to "What did I do last time?"....
If you are running a new method in the lab. you write down what you did
don't you? Then when you need it again you look up your protocol
from the first time... until you can remember it. Things you do often
you don't need to look up again. Things you do less often you need to
refresh your memory on. Using computers (including Macs) is just the same.
Write yourself a protocol and treat computing as seriously as any other
technique you use (and that includes understanding it and knowing its
Having reread what I just wrote - it sounds a little strident. Sorry didn't
mean to. Best wishes to all, Paul Fisher.