Systems People

Charles Bailey bailey at hmivax.humgen.upenn.edu
Tue Jun 23 16:04:38 EST 1992

In article <1992Jun23.021835.22253 at wl.com>, duffiem at wl.com (Mark Duffield) writes:
> In article <1992Jun19.144752.12609 at news2.cis.umn.edu> ernest at lenti.med.umn.edu (Ernest Retzel (1535 49118)) writes:
>>With respect to the systems discussion, I agree with Reinhard, Dave and Bruce. 
>>You will be far better served to be looking for systems people than by 
>>trying to manage a system yourself.  What you get when you look for someone 
>>with a Computer Science background is expertise and a skill level that is 
>>extremely hard to find or develop.  Trying to do it yourself would be like 
>>trying to create a molecular biologist out of an English Lit background: it 
>>can be done, but...
> [ .. Stuff deleted in the interest of saving bandwidth .. ]
> I agree in principle with what you are saying, but would like to add my own
> two cents.  
> I don't believe that a CSci degree is necessary.  Better is a
> person with primarily a physical science background that has an interest in
> computers.  You will find that this person is more able to help you accomplish
> scientific computing than the CS major will as he/she is more well rounded.
> Even better would be a science major from a liberal arts school with an 
> interest in computers.

I'd like to second this thought, and add my own $0.02 to the discussion.  One
of the most important roles a 'systems person' can serve at a biological
computing facility is that of educator and consultant.  (This is true at any
facility, in fact, but in my limited experience biologists tend to be less
acquainted with computing than many of their colleagues in physical and
mathematical sciences.)   Particularly as the sophistication of sequence
analysis methods increases, it is becoming more and more impossible to take
one's data from the bench to the tty and expect the path of optimum analysis to
be obvious.  I have found that effort invested in understanding analytical
strategies and algorithms is generally well repaid, and that, conversely,
otherwise good scientists have missed significant information or assembled it
haphazardly because they felt it was not worthwhile to spend time learning
'computer stuff'.

I bring this up in the current discussion in order to emphasize that, however a
computing facility is set up, it is essential for the computational folks to
communicate their understanding of computed solutions to biologists, and it is
essential for 'wet' biologists to communicate their understanding of biological
'reality' to the computational folks (computists? :-)).  WRT running specific
facilities, I feel that initial background is far less important than interest
and ability of the individual; with sufficient investment of time and effort,
it is possible, and necessary,  to become competent in both areas.  It is
particularly nice to see a dawning awareness in the larger community that
computational biology is in itself a field which merits dedicated research and
training.  My concern now is that it not become a specialty limited to the
experts, who mystically operate on the 'wet' data to discern its deeper
meaning.  I expect that sentiment is shared by most readers here.

OK, my $0.02.  When reading it, consider the source; I'm a (quite voluntary)
part of the 'slave labor' mentioned previously, and so would be expected to
have a biologic bias.  I'm also coming off a long night, and may be less
coherent than would ideally be so.

					Charles Bailey

!          Dept. of Human Genetics / Howard Hughes Medical Institute
! University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine  Rm. 430 Clinical Research Bldg.
!     422 Curie Blvd.  Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA      Tel. (215) 898-1699
!          Internet: bailey at hmivax.humgen.upenn.edu  (IN
Quid rideo?  De me fabula narratur!  (acknowledgements [and apologies] to Horace)

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