Informatics is a broad academic field that encompasses information and computer science, information technology, and data management and analysis. It lives at the intersection of core areas and domain ares. The core ares include the computational, mathematical, and statistical sciences with a focus on investigating the abstract properties of representations of data and the development of methods and tools to extract information from data, and the physical and engineering sciences with a long tradition of dealing with large and complex data. The domain areas range across the physical, engineering, biological, agricultural, environmental, health, the social sciences, the arts and humanities, business and management, education and human resources. Informatics has spawned new discipline specific application areas, including health informatics, bioinformatics, public health informatics, eco-informatics, chemical informatics, social informatics, geo-informatics, security informatics, music informatics, or the digital humanities.
Informatics is a way of thinking about data, information, and knowledge. It includes methodologies, tools, and techniques. It connects and transforms data to knowledge by extracting information from data, and exploiting the ability of the human mind to assign meaning to information. New technologies are generating terabytes of data, and will soon be generating petabytes of data. The analysis and interpretation of such massive data will continue to lead to breakthrough discoveries across academic disciplines, spawn new information-based industries, and contribute to the solution of the grand challenges humanity faces today, from access to clean water, to sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, securing the global food supply, or maintaining a sound infrastructure. At the same time, the emergence of big data in every aspect of life is transforming our society and shaping our human experiences in new ways.
Research in informatics is thus necessarily broad, ranging from the development of novel methodologies across the life cycle of data to exploring the impact of big data on the human experience. About half of the funding for UMII comes from MnDRIVE, which has defined focus areas. The other half of the funding comes from the University of Minnesota (Central Administration) through the Office of the Vice President for Research, and will support research across the fields represented by the University. To define the breadth and depth of research supported by UMII, we will conduct a series of listening sessions and actively seek out input from faculty, staff, students, and administrators across the campuses of the University of Minnesota. In addition, we will use UMII's funding mechanisms to shape UMII's investments in informatics at the University of Minnesota.
Your input is welcome at any time. Simply send an e-mail to UMII with suggestions, comments, or questions.
Informatics Research Areas
Informatics research occurs across a broad range of domain areas, such as
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
The NIH developed a working definition of bioinformatics and computational biology in 2000. There are many government programs and initiatives, and public-private partnerships focused in this area (click here for a list).
Explore the field of digital humanities in a University of Minnesota Press Open Access Edition of Debates in the Digital Humanities
Ecology and Environmental Sciences
"Big Data has already altered the way scientists view, study, and analyze the world, and appears poised to change the fields of ecology and environmental science forever." This quote is from NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network, funded by the NSF. A three-part series on Big Data discusses what his means for ecology.
Learn more about research in health informatics at the University of Minnesota's Institute for Health Informatics public health informatics
Public Health Informatics
To learn more about research in cheminformatics at the University of Minnesota's Digital Technology Center, click here
Send suggestions for areas to be highlighted here to UMII.