Sydney Brenner's views on systems biology

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sichan's picture
Sydney Brenner's views on systems biology

Sydney Brenner's views on systems biology:

He called upon the young students of the institute not to be seduced by fields such as systems biology, where producing data has become a ‘substitute for thinking.’ “There is a crisis in all sciences these days. We are drowning in a sea of data, and yet we are thirsty. Science today rewards only those who collect and distribute data. There is no reward for those who organise the data and theorise based on it,” he said.

I don't know if this is a problem that is specific just to systems biology but rather molecular biology in general. Thanks to high throughput tools such as sequencers and gene expression arrays, we're producing piles of data every day. What we need are tools to better integrate and make sense of what is going on. Semantic web to the rescue?

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bgood's picture
Yes, that is the general idea

Yes, that is the general idea for the semantic Web in science. If the basic principles are applied (real unique identifiers (URIs), computationally meaningful descriptions associated with all of the emerging pieces of data created using shared languages (ontologies)), we should be much better at integrating and interrogating the large volumes of heterogenous data.

Its kind of funny to hear this from Dr. Brenner as he wrote quite an attack on the Gene Ontology efforts a few years back that, in my and many others opinions, totally missed the point.

Or, perhaps, given that he is a genius, he is actually looking farther ahead. Perhaps he has recognized, correctly, that ontologies created using just two relationships (is a and part of) are brutally insufficient to represent anything of real complexity, like most things in biology. Maybe he'd be more interested in more biophysically complete knowledge representations?