ly rely on an interdisciplinary approach to not only succeed in but to just proceed with research. It also means that individuals are needed who can work in the emerging field of bioinformatics, combining skills of computer science with a knowledge of biology.

This paper examines this emerging field. We begin by discussing demand for individuals who can work in the field. We then summarize the number of individuals in the pipeline who are currently being trained in the field. The indication that demand is strong and the pipeline sparsely populated leads us to ask why the response of higher education has been sluggish. We close by suggesting possible solutions to address the problem of sluggish response.

DEMAND FOR INDIVIDUALS IN BIOINFOMATICS

By all accounts the field of bioinformatics/computational biology is booming. The scientific press stresses the high salaries paid to new hires ($65,000 for persons with top master’s training; $90,000 or more for Ph.D.s) and the intensity with which headhunters seek out possible candidates.3 Universities complain that their students are “grabbed” before they are able to complete their degrees and that their faculty and students are lured to industry, creating the concern that the bioinformatics field is “eating its seed.”4

Here we use a two-part methodology to investigate demand: we analyze position advertisements in Science as well as summarize data collected from a survey of programs concerning their placements of students. Figure 1 presents job openings in bioinformatics and computational biology by month for a two-year period as measured by counting position announcements in Science. Given the methodology, the numbers reported are a lower bound.5 In 1996, 209 posi-

3  

See Eliot Marshall, “Hot Property: Biologists Who Compute,” Science, June 21, 1996, pp. 1730–32; Eliot Marshall, “Demand Outstrips Supply,” Science, June 21, 1996, pp. 1731; and Diane Gershon, “Bioinformatics in a Post-genomics Age,” Nature, Vol. 389, September 25, 1997, pp. 417–18.

4  

See Eliot Marshall, “Demand Outstrips Supply,” Op cit. and Potter Wickware, “Choices and Challenges,” Nature, Vol. 389, September 25, 1997, pp. 420. For example, the bioinformatics staff at Johns Hopkins University’s Genome Data Base fell from 35 to 20 during Fall of 1997 due to corporate recruitment. See Jocelyn Kaiser, (ed.) “Hopkins’s Genetic Database to Close,” Science, vol. 279, January 30, 1998, p. 645.

5  

Science and Nature are the two scientific journals that consistently publish employment ads related to computational biology. Our index was computed by examining job advertisements in every issue of Science for the years 1996 and 1997. A position was counted if the ad specifically asked for a computational biologist or a bioinformatist or the position announcement explicitly mentioned experience in computational biology or bioinformatics. Counts are lower bounds of actual position announcements in Science because some advertisements do not state the specific number of position openings but instead indicate more than some specified number. In such instances the lower bound was recorded. Within each calendar year every effort was made not to count repeated ads for the same position.



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