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Hello monks,

I was wondering how much support there would be for an informatics-based interest area. I am a biologist turned quasi-bioinformaticist, and while I have found PM to be very helpful, I also think having a forum for science-related questions would be beneficial. Not only would it would aid scientists that currently use perl in their work, but it might also encourage non-programming scientists to take the leap into perldom if they knew such a resource existed (thereby expanding the PM community and spreading the glory of perl...an angelic chorus echos through the Monastery).

Discussion with BioGeek and SciDude convinced me that this idea was at least worth bringing up in a post. SciDude suggested expanding the focus of the area to include fields beyond biology: chemistry, physics, math, and all things science. In addition, for those that are interested, BioGeek has started compiling a list of monks that indicated a scientific interest on their home node.

Of course, arguments could be made both for and against creating an informatics area. For example, many questions can be boiled down to something that is application independent and therefore something that can be easily posted to existing areas of the Monastery (a problematic regex is still just a regex), but non-generalizable questions might be better organized into a separate area. I am sure there are many reasons to support or to discourage this idea - here is a partial list:

Advantages:

  • provide a place for specific Q&A for specific (and perhaps not widely-used) informatics modules
  • provide a forum for focused discussions about approaches to field-specific tasks
  • encourage members of the bioperl/etc communities to join PM
  • expertise from the broader PM community could be applied to informatics problems that are typically posted on more subject-specific lists
  • provide a central repository for informatics-related nodes currently in the Cool Uses for Perl section
  • provide a more specialized support area for these users of perl (a growing minority)
  • tutorials that illustrate common tasks may help attract currently non-programming scientists

    Disadvantages:

  • many general questions are application-independent and do not require a specialized forum
  • some support for biologists already exists through bioperl.org
  • might impart an exclusionist feel to existing but non-science members
  • most posts containing informatics code examples could go to Cool Uses for Perl

    If interest is high enough, perhaps a small room in the Monastery could be cleaned out for an informatics area? I thought a dusty room in the basement, perhaps "The Laboratory", would be appropriate...

    Thanks - comments are welcome!


    In reply to New science/informatics interest area? by bobf

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