What is “Informatics”?

Informatics is a field that is primarily concerned with making sense of large amounts of data. In particular, informatics researchers strive to develop software for finding patterns in data that allow it to be organized, modeled, visualized, understood and manipulated in a comprehensible way.

The goal of an informatics system is to present the end-user, whether that is a researcher, a physician, or a member of the public, the information that is most relevant and useful to them. To accomplish this, informatics draws from a number of different fields including artificial intelligencecognitive sciencedatabase systemslibrary and information sciencestatistics, and software engineering.

The term “informatics” was coined in the 1960s to mean “applied information science.” During the decades since, informatics has grown and evolved; making its biggest impact in medicine and biology. Medical informatics is primarily concerned with the information processing and communication tasks of medical practice, education and research. Bioinformatics, on the other hand, focuses on the interpretation and management of biological data (including human genome data).

Today, informatics is being used to deal with an ever increasing variety of data. The ability to discover knowledge from sources as unstructured as the world wide web will drive research in many different areas.

From “Biomedical and Health Informatics: Improving Health, Healthcare, and Biomedical Research with Information Technology” presented by William Hersh, MD at Portland State University on July 16, 2010.

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