Talk Title: Bioinformatics: just pipelines, isn’t it?


Bioinformatics: it is hard to define, and seemingly changing all the time. Much of bioinformatics in recent times has become defined by analysis pipelines. There is certainly a justifiable push towards reproducibility and good pipelines are key to this. Outstanding software has been developed to make this job much easier (GitHub, R/Markdown, JuPyter etc). However bioinformatics is more than just developing pipelines.

In Australia bioinformaticians are more likely to work on more, and smaller, datasets, in smaller teams, and possibly on their own. Bioinformaticians are thus likely to have diverse goals, contingent on their role in their team. My lab works on boutique analysis problems, involving biological and bioinformatic challenges that we have identified,  but we are also faced with large, and small, data challenges which have required different types of bioinformatic approaches, similar to the challenges faced by other bioinformaticians.

I will illustrate how we are dealing with some of these challenges. I will also argue that the Œone size fits all¹ approach, or one pipeline, in terms of bioinformatics, is not in the best interests for science.

Melanie Bahlo


Professor Melanie Bahlo, Co-Division Head, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

Professor Melanie Bahlo is a bioinformatician with a PhD in Statistics, with more than 20 years experience in the analysis of Œomics data and development of bioinformatics tools. She heads the statistical genetics laboratory in the Population Health and Immunity Division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, in Melbourne, Australia.

Her research interests are motivated by the desire to identify the genetic factors that control traits such as disease. Although her primary research area is neurogenetics, she also works in infectious diseases, particularly malaria. Her research lab has helped to discover more than twenty genes that cause disease, developing new approaches and software along the way to achieve this. Her work intersects the disciplines of population genetics, statistical genetics and bioinformatics. She is a current NHMRC Senior Research Fellow.
Her lab’s software can be found at

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