Duty Calls, Science

All biology is computational biology – now in German. Thank you, Laborjournal!

Laborjournal.de just published a German translation of my opinion piece “All biology is computational biology” in PLoS Biology earlier this year.

Have a look at it here: http://www.laborjournal.de/rubric/essays/essays2017/e17_10.lasso

Luckily I didn’t have to translate it myself. My Deutsch has been getting pretty schlecht lately.

And this is reading quite well, don’t you think?

„Wie werden Leute wie du jemals Letztautoren?“ Im Jahr 2008 stellte eine führende Zellbiologin mir diese Frage während des Bewerbungsgesprächs für meinen aktuellen Job. Offenbar wusste sie nicht recht, wie ich bei Forschungsprojekten jemals eine leitende Rolle einnehmen könnte. Ich war in Mathematik und Maschinellem Lernen ausgebildet worden und hatte mich damals für eine Gruppenleiter-Stelle als Computational Biologist in einem Krebsforschungsinstitut beworben. Der Zellbiologin, die mich interviewte, schien allerdings nicht klar, wie mein eigener Beitrag zur biologischen Forschung aussehen könnte. Sind Computer-Hacker nicht einfach nur Dienstleister? Nett, dass man sie hat, aber ohne echte wissenschaftliche Vision? Kurzum: Sie bezweifelte stark, dass ich tatsächlich unabhängige biologische Forschung machen könnte.

I definitely hope they also translate my robust response to comments in the next issue.


Duty Calls, Science

All biology is computational biology – 28 days later

Almost a month has passed since I published an opinion piece called “All biology is computational biology” in PLoS Biology.

In my paper, I envisioned a biology that explicitly and clearly acknowledges how much it has changed over the last 20 years, how much its questions have changed, and how much the practice of doing biology has changed. I envisioned a biology that gives credit broadly and fairly to everybody who contributed to key insights – regardless of what tools they used.

As intended, my paper provoked many responses from the community, and in the following you find my thoughts on some particularly interesting comments.

Continue reading

Duty Calls, Science

Well, that will cause some eye-rolling: All biology is computational biology!

I met Emma Ganley from PLOS Biology at the #scidata16 conference last year, and shortly afterwards she invited me to contribute to the PLOS Biology collection Research Matters:

In this series, we ask leading scientists in their respective fields to explain clearly and engagingly for a lay audience why the research carried out in their laboratories – and those of their collaborators and their colleagues – matters.

It wasn’t immediately clear to me, what I should write about. I tend to label myself a cancer researcher nowadays, but cancer research does not need any explanation why it matters – unfortunate as that is.

At the same time, I am a computational biologist – and here I thought was a much bigger need to explain why it matters. The question is not so much why computational biology and bioinformatics are useful (nobody seems to question that it’s handy to have the geeks around) but why is it biological research, rather than just a support and service activity.

Continue reading