No-Boundary Thinking in Bioinformatics
A Workshop for the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing (PSB)


When: 1:30-4:30, January 3, 2017
Where: Plaza Room, Fairmont Orchid Hotel
Workshop paper: PDF




Bioinformatics had its origins in the 1970s with the convergence of DNA sequencing, personal computers, and the internet. The field rapidly evolved as biotechnology improved making it critical to store, process, retrieve, and analyze bigger and bigger data to address important question in the biological and biomedical sciences. Bioinformaticians throughout the 1980s and 1990s were often seen as consultants that provided a data service that represented one step in the process of asking a question, formulating a hypothesis, carrying out an experiment, analyzing the results, and making an inference. Much of bioinformatics at that time was about developing the capacity for providing this service. As the discipline has matured in the 2000s it quickly became apparent that bioinformaticians were needed as collaborators and not just consultants. This facilitated the integration of informatics into every aspect of a research project. We are at yet another turning point in the evolution of bioinformatics that will see in the coming years bioinformaticians transition from collaborators to the leaders that bring multidisciplinary teams together to solve a problem. In other words, bioinformaticians will ask the questions, define the hypotheses, and orchestrate the scientific study. This is the natural result of interdisciplinary training, the public availability of data, open-source software, and the spread of core facilities for conducting experiments.


The purpose of this workshop is to introduce and discuss the future of bioinformatics as a mature discipline. We have previously defined this evolution and its impact as No-Boundary Thinking (NBT) in Bioinformatics (Huang et al. 2013; Huang et al. 2015). The NBT philosophy puts bioinformaticians in the driver seat for asking and answering research questions because they are in the best position to integrate and synthesize knowledge across many disciplines to articulate a question that might have broader impact than one formulated from the knowledge of a single discipline. NBT puts the emphasis on knowledge-based question definition with data serving a secondary role. This is counter to the current philosophy of letting big data drive the questions that are asked (Huang et al. 2015).


We will invite bioinformaticians to speak about their experience leading multidisciplinary research projects where knowledge integration have been the driving force for defining research questions with a broader impact. An agenda for the workshop will posted soon.


Workshop Agenda – Tuesday, January 3rd (Plaza Room)


1:30 – 1:40 Jason Moore – Introduction and overview
1:40 – 1:50 Xiuzhen Huang – What is No-Boundary Thinking?
1:50 – 2:10 Larry Hunter – knowledge integration for NBT
2:10 – 2:30 Don Wunsch – science talk with NBT aspects
2:30 – 2:50 Marylyn Ritchie* – science talk with NBT aspects
2:50 – 3:10 Casey Greene – science talk with NBT aspects
3:10 – 3:30 ClarLynda Williams – science talk with NBT aspects
3:30 – 3:50 Andy Perkins – education talk with NBT aspects
3:50 – 4:30 Panel discussion – science & education


Workshop Organizers


Xiuzhen Huang, Ph.D. is a Professor of Computer Science at Arkansas State University. Her lab develops novel discrete and continuous mathematical approaches related to high-dimensional data clustering, next-generation sequencing assembly, genomics data and imaging data analysis for studying stress reactions, genetic diseases, and human cancer molecular study. While many bioinformatics approaches are currently developed for biomedical applications and data analysis, her interest is to see the seamless integration of computational approach development with wet-lab experiments and clinical practices in order to address real biomedical challenges.


Jason H. Moore is the Edward Rose Professor of Informatics and Director of the Institute for Biomedical Informatics at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the development and application of artificial intelligence and machine learning methods for the genetic and genomic analysis of common diseases. Dr. Moore serves as Editor-in-Chief of the BMC journal BioData Mining.




Huang X, Bruce B, Buchan A, Congdon CB, Cramer CL, Jennings SF, Jiang H, Li Z, McClure G, McMullen R, Moore JH, Nanduri B, Peckham J, Perkins A, Polson SW, Rekepalli B, Salem S, Specker J, Wunsch D, Xiong D, Zhang S, Zhao Z. No-boundary thinking in bioinformatics research. BioData Min. 2013 Nov 6;6(1):19. [PDF]


Huang X, Jennings SF, Bruce B, Buchan A, Cai L, Chen P, Cramer CL, Guan W, Hilgert UK, Jiang H, Li Z, McClure G, McMullen DF, Nanduri B, Perkins A, Rekepalli B, Salem S, Specker J, Walker K, Wunsch D, Xiong D, Zhang S, Zhang Y, Zhao Z, Moore JH. Big data – a 21st century science Maginot Line? No-boundary thinking: shifting from the big data paradigm. BioData Min. 2015 Feb 6;8:7. [PDF]