Journalists in the mainstream media have talked about the Information Age for some time now. Most computer users don’t stop to consider just how much information they process in a day. Some concerned citizens have railed against information overload. On the other hand, computational biologists are changing the way that scientists fundamentally work with data.
Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body once represented the sum of all biological knowledge. The 1918 version provided over 13,000 different entries. Medical students often work with similar textbooks. However, information on genetics has essentially reduced the entire human organism to compiled code.
Computational biologists often have more of a background in computer science than in biology. While both disciplines are of vital importance in the field, computer programming might very well trump medical training in some respects. This illustrates just how complex machinery has gotten.
Humans might be looked at as a class of organic machines, but they have little in common with networked UNIX workstations. Information systems management disciplines aren’t completely integrated with every scientific field. The benefits of computer management are obvious.
What might not be obvious is the influence that computers might have on researchers. Published work is now largely held by large public databases. Scientists might very well be moving towards a future where interactions with databases could be on a far more intimate level.