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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Bioinformatics Education - Skills Shortage or Fundamental Shift in Skill Creation and Demand?

Paradigm Shift in Life Science Skills

There is a wide perception that the rapid growth in the amount and diversity of digitalised biological data is exceeding the available supply of skills to analyse, process and manage it. In this view, the problem is a skills gap or shortage (1,2). However, it could be argued that there is a far more fundamental issue at stake here. A paradigm shift in the nature of biological sciences is beginning to bear fruit in a new range of technologies across many industries - a parallel technology paradigm shift. From this perspective, the issue of human skills and capabilities is not simply one of supply bottlenecks (due to insufficient existing skills) but one of a top-to-bottom redisciplining of biology and the creation of new patterns of interdisciplinarity. In a recent report for the UK Department of Trade and Industry, the UK bioinformatics scene was analysed with respect to its recent developments and future prospects, through a focus on interactions between industry and academia, knowledge transfer, intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes and public versus private funding (3). It was shown that bioinformatic skills and capabilities are developed in both educational and commercial organisations, and that there are flows between them of both knowledge/information and human skills.


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By Erich Bornberg-Bauer of UMBER Bioinformatics, School of Biological Sciences, and Mark Harvey and Andrew McMeekin of CRIC ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition, all at the University of Manchester, UK
Dr Erich Bornberg-Bauer is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK. He has a background in mathematics and biochemistry and worked as a Postdoc at the German Cancer Research Centre and as a Project Manager at the EML (an SME), both in Heidelberg, Germany. His main research interests lie in molecular evolution and computation of biochemical pathways.
Dr Mark Harvey has been a Senior Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition (CRIC) since 1997. His research has focused on innovation and comparative economic institutions, including agrifood, food retailing, and the development of GMOs for commercial markets. He has also undertaken research on skill formation and labour markets in different European economies, and is involved in two major European research networks, including one on trust in food. His current research now includes comparative analysis of the development of biotechnology and genomics in the agrifood sector, and bioinformatics in Europe, the US and South America.
Dr Andrew McMeekin has been a Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition (CRIC) since 1997. He previously worked and studied at Manchester School of Management, UMIST, and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at Sussex University, UK. His research has focused on social and economic aspects of the organisation and management of technological innovation in firms, and on government science and technology policy. This research has involved interaction with technical directors from many of the UK's largest high technology firms, policy makers and a number of non-governmental organisations. His current research is on developments in biotechnology, genomics and bioinformatics, with a particular focus on the agrifood sector.


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Dr Erich Bornberg-Bauer
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Dr Mark Harvey
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Dr Andrew McMeekin
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