B  U  L  L  E  T  I  N


of the American Society for Information Science and Technology       Vol. 30, No. 2      December/January  2004

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Special Section

Biological Informatics:  A Comparison of Biodiversity Informatics and Neuroinformatics, Part 2
by Bryan Heidorn, Guest Editor

This special section of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology is devoted to two branches of biological informatics that warrant special attention from the information science community: biodiversity informatics and neuroinformatics. Biologists are turning to information technology to produce critically needed efficiencies in their work As explained in the previous issue, bioinformatics has come to mean "information on molecular biology" and in particular gene and protein sequences thus the need to come up with a new term (biological informatics) to cover the science of information about all levels of biological analysis. Health informatics (medical informatics), neuroinformatics, biodiversity informatics and biomolecular informatics (bioinformatics) all fall under this broader concept. Because of the length of this section it has been split between this issue and previous one.

Both biodiversity informatics (BDI) and neuroinformatics (NI) are brought together into one category because, while they differ broadly in other aspects of their social, political and historical context, it has become clear that progress in both fields is dependent on advances in information gathering and access. Both have reached the point of becoming "integrative sciences."

Both BDI and NI are marked with a critical need for advancement, an abundance of new research and new sources of information, but a lack of a cultural and technical infrastructure to share and use this abundance of information. As is true in many fields electronic media and the Internet are changing the nature of publishing in BDI and NI. These same forces of scale and integration are also breaking down the culture of "one lab, one data collection." In this issue Bryan Heidorn addresses the promise and perils of this change in "Publishing Digital Flora and Fauna," while Gwen Williams, in the paper "Intellectual Property and Biological Knowledge," discusses how the shift to electronic delivery has made issues of intellectual property in biological science more complicated.

Assuming that we can solve all of the above issues, we still have a major problem with the physical communication of biological information. Projects springing up around the world are being designed to use existing information retrieval standards to record, encode and deliver biological information. Chulin Meng covers some of the emerging standards with familiar sounding names but new twists such as "Darwin Core" (tsadev.speciesanalyst.net), Z39.50 (ZBIG), and Open Archives Initiative style treatment of natural history style holdings in "Biological Information Standards."

Previous articles in this section appeared in the October/November 2003 issue of the Bulletin (www.asis.org/Bulletin/Oct-03/index.html).


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