The Science of Informatics

The science of informatics drives innovation that is defining future approaches to information and knowledge management in biomedical research, clinical care, and public health. Informatics researchers develop, introduce, and evaluate new biomedically motivated methods in areas as diverse as data mining (deriving new knowledge from large databases), natural language or text processing, cognitive science, human interface design, decision support, databases, and algorithms for analyzing large amounts of data generated in public health, clinical research, or genomics/proteomics. The science of informatics is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing on (and contributing to) a large number of other component fields, including computer science, decision science, information science, management science, cognitive science, and organizational theory.

All work in informatics is motivated by the need to create new solutions--often using information technology-- that enhance biomedical science, the health of the populace, and the quality and safety of care that is provided to individuals when they are ill. The underlying science that has broad applicability across all the applied domains is generally called biomedical informatics. The methods and techniques developed by biomedical informatics scientists are often relevant across five major areas of application that AMIA members emphasize:

The informatics community typically uses the term health informatics to refer to applied research and practice of informatics across the clinical and public health domains. Medical informatics is an earlier term, no longer routinely used, outdated by the growth of bioinformatics.

Biomedical informatics scientists informaticians—often work in academic environments where, like other biomedical researchers, they pursue scientific projects while also teaching and, in some cases, practicing in one of the health professions. Such faculty members often serve as mentors in graduate training programs that lead to masters or doctoral degrees, or that offer postdoctoral positions; students generally carry out research projects as part of their training. Although many graduates of such programs remain in academia or other research settings, the majority choose to pursue more applied careers in industry, hospitals, clinical practice, government, or other settings.

  • Scope and Breadth of Biomedical Informatics: investigates and supports reasoning, modeling, simulation, experimentation and translation across the spectrum from molecules to individuals to populations, from biological to social systems, bridging basic and clinical research and practice, and the healthcare enterprise.
  • Theory and Methodology: develops, studies, and applies theories, methods, and processes for the generation, storage, retrieval, use, management, and sharing of biomedical data, information, and knowledge.
  • Technological Approach: builds on and contributes to computer, telecommunication, and information sciences and technologies, emphasizing their application in biomedicine.
  • Human and Social Context: recognizes that people are the ultimate users of biomedical information, and so draws upon the social and behavioral sciences to inform the design and evaluation of technical solutions, policies, and the evolution of economic, ethical, social, educational, and organizational systems.

Definition of Biomedical Informatics

A formal definition of biomedical informatics was developed by AMIA's Academic Forum between 2008 and 2011. The resulting paper, which includes a discussion of the field as well as a delineation of the core competencies for graduate studies in biomedical informatics, was published in JAMIA in 2012 (click here). 

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