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Information about Designing Biological Databases

Bioinformatics has traditionally been a programming discipline. However, as more and more data intensive disciplines of biology appear (genomics, proteomics, gene expression arrays...), databases are beginning to play a larger role in bioinformatics.

Fortunately, the attributes and skills that make someone a good programmer overlap significantly with the attributes and skills needed to design a good database. Unfortunately, they don't overlap completely. Designing databases requires some new technical skills, but more importantly, it requires that the bioinformaticist take a slightly different view of the data. A programmer thinks more about how to use the data, while a database designer thinks more about how to structure the data so that the full and correct meaning is represented. Of course, this is a bit of a simplification: good programmers also think about what the data means, and good database designers also think about how the data will be used. The primary focus is just a bit different.

There are many web resources about programming for bioinformatics. I am developing this website to provide information about designing databases to store biological data. (You're probably wondering why you should care about my opinions on biological database design. Read my professional summary to see my experience.) However, I do have a day job, so this site will grow slowly. I am happy to receive feedback and to answer questions. My e-mail address is melanie_renee_nelson at yahoo dot com.

Primary author: Melanie Nelson
Last edited: 14 May 2006