Life Sciences & Bioinformatics

I was arguing with a friend the other day about what exactly the word "bioinformatics" means — specifically, we were debating what fields or areas of research are involved: if you were to draw a 3-n Venn Diagram, what labels would each of the sets contain?

We pretty much agreed on two of the sets: "Computer Science" and "Statistics", but we could not agree on the third.  I argued about "biology", and they argued (correctly) that biology is too narrow a term: it leaves out areas like "clinical research", "microorganisms", etc..  We argued and argued and couldn't settle it, finally agreeing to disagree.

A couple of weeks passed and it still bugged me that they were right, biology was not the right term, even though its right there in the tin so to speak.

I consider Wikipedia's definition outdated: it describes bioinformatics as a field "that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data."  I think it was written by someone that believes that bioinformatics = BLAST. Yuck.

Also, as of this writing, the phrase "data science" or any other knowledge extraction buzzword, does not appear anywhere in Wikipedia's definition.  However, Wikipedia's entry for Data Science is very interesting:

an interdisciplinary field about processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms

Which I think aptly describes what bioinformatics is all about: creating knowledge from data... but what kind of data?  I don't think its a "kind", but rather what is the origin of the data?  Sure, most of it comes from "biology", but I think that "Life Sciences" is a much better enclosing term:

The life sciences comprise the fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms – such as microorganisms, plants, animals, and human beings.

And so, our venn diagram becomes something like:

While not perfect, I think that these three terms encompass the fields that make up what we know as "bioinformatics" — and the the more I think about it, the more I think that bioinformatics is Life Science Informatics: Creating knowledge from life sciences data.  Wikipedia's bioinformatics page contains this jewel:

Historically, the term bioinformatics did not mean what it means today.