Bioinformatics, these days, is much like a piece of ‘hot cake’ in the booming biotech business across the globe. Early works of bioinformatics began in the late 1960’s – early 1970’s. People working in this field were not aware of the term ‘bioinformatics’. It was only in 1978, Pauline Hogeweg and Ben Hesper coined the term ‘bioinformatics’ for the study of the informatics processes on biotic systems which was later incorporated in the Oxford English Dictionary. However, until early 1990’s experts in this area were known as ‘computational molecular biologist’ to recognize their training in molecular biology and acquired computer skills.
It was only after mid 1990’s that people started using the term Bioinformatician or Bioinformaticist. But still there exists a huge controversy among professionals of bioinformatics over semantics – Bioinformaticist Vs Bioinformatician. No doubt, Bioinformatician is a popular word describing personnel working in bioinformatics. The dictionary says:
- -ist: “A suffix denoting an adherent system of beliefs…” or “Denoting a member of a profession or business activity”
- -ician: “Denoting a person skilled or concerned with a field or subject”
-ist is like: Artist, Scientist
-ician is like: Technician, musician
The consensus seems to be that –ician is the correct suffix. Are the two different things: –ician being someone who is more like a technician and –ist being more like a scientist? I don’t think there is a correct answer. For example, why do we say “mathematician”, yet we say “physicist”? I think most people choose which sounds better, to their ear.
I’ve found some other school of thought which asserts that:
A bioinformaticist is an expert who not only knows how to use bioinformatics tools, but also knows how to write interfaces for effective use of the tools.
Bioinformaticist : (*.omics) :: Mechanical Engineer : Automobiles
A bioinformatician, on the other hand, is a trained individual who only knows to use bioinformatics tools without a deeper understanding.
Bioinformatician : (*.omics) :: Technician : Automobiles
In essence, No definite line can be drawn between Bioinformatician and Bioinformaticist. However, Bioinformatician seems to be more popular and accepted word. There are many people who haven’t even heard of these terms and doesn’t really bother about the subtle differences. For them I am just a Scientist !!!