Bioinformatics: Current practice and future challenges for life science education



It is widely predicted that the application of high-throughput technologies to the quantification and identification of biological molecules will cause a paradigm shift in the life sciences. However, if the biosciences are to evolve from a predominantly descriptive discipline to an information science, practitioners will require enhanced skills in mathematics, computing, and statistical analysis. Universities have responded to the widely perceived skills gap primarily by developing masters programs in bioinformatics, resulting in a rapid expansion in the provision of postgraduate bioinformatics education. There is, however, a clear need to improve the quantitative and analytical skills of life science undergraduates. This article reviews the response of academia in the United Kingdom and proposes the learning outcomes that graduates should achieve to cope with the new biology. While the analysis discussed here uses the development of bioinformatics education in the United Kingdom as an illustrative example, it is hoped that the issues raised will resonate with all those involved in curriculum development in the life sciences.