Ten simple rules for biologists initiating a collaboration with computer scientists

I think it depends. I think it is probably quite a good guide for Bioinformaticians that want to collaborate with “proper” computer scientists when they need new computer science to solve their problems.

I think its less good for biologists who need to collaborate with someone to give more computational nouce to their biology project.

I have two problems with it:

Firstly it states you shouldn’t try to make biologists out of computer scientists, but then goes into a whole load of computer science stuff that biologists ought to learn. It says that instead of teaching CS people to be biologists, they should just teach the intution necessary. But I kind of feel that the point of intuition is that it can’t be taught. One’s intuition is constructed for ones self by immersion within the field. When I look at an alignment in IGV, I’m not looking for particular things (or not consciously anyway), but rather things that are wrong are obvious only after you’ve seen them: my subconscious intiution highlights these things to my conscious brain. You gain this by having a feel for biology.

Secondly it says that biology people must recognize that the CS people are interested in publishing novel CS, not solving biology problems. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but rather that this is why most non-computationally aware biologists would be better off collaborating with a bioinformatician or computational biologist: there just isn’t novel CS to be had in most of the things a biologist needs to solve. Thus the computationalist needs to be motivated by solving the biological problem, not the computational one. As most CS people aren’t thus motivated, they are the wrong people to collaborate with most of the time.

One give away is that the author talks about different programming languages, saying that CS people don’t care about the lanuage. I’ve never met a wet-only biologist that cares at all about different languages – they couldn’t’ care less if a program takes 6 horus or 1 to run. But who does care (often exceesively) and engage in language flame wars (mostly in a tongue in cheek way)? Bioinformaticians.

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