Message from the Conference Chairs

 

The idea of bringing together those scientists from the world of Biosciences with those from the world of

Computational and Information Science and Technology to discuss discovered enigmas, paradoxes, and problems

and solutions of common interest, was the original motivation for organizing this conference series of which FBIT

2007 is the first conference.

For some years, we have been seeking inspiration in Nature to tackle problems. As an example of the potential

for this interaction consider the Genetic Programming (GP) [1] field. The idea here is to use computers to implement

an algorithm loosely inspired in Darwinian survival of the fittest and genetic modifications, so as to manipulate

randomly assembled computer programs to evolve to useful programs, in this way engineering the solution to a

given problem. Some years ago, GP researchers came across “code bloat”, i.e., the observation that computer

programs suddenly evolved parts that if executed made no difference to the answers, or large parts that did not get to

execute, and they struggled to explain why this happens. In itself it is an annoyance that does not hinder application

of GP but it reminds of “junk DNA” and one could imagine that Computer Scientists and Biologists would converse

about it. This is by no means an isolated example. This conference has an invited track in Bionetics that is

researching how inspiration in Nature may help devices to cope with the challenges arising out of the highly

networked environment of the modern Communication Age. This is not far away from the objectives of another

track in Autonomous Robotics or from the current preoccupations of the Biometrics tracks of this conference that

aim to preserve sensitivity and specificity levels in different environments. Biology will continue to inspire us

whenever we observe Nature solving a very challenging problem: mathematicians proving theorems or chess players

that can hold a match with a supercomputer, how does Nature do it? and how to distill new computational paradigms

from such study to address the challenges of our modern world.

Biology itself has an increasing dependence on the numerate sciences. Statistics alone may not help us unravel

the mysteries even when we have the sequence for a protein or the genome. Chemical context, DNA expression,

splicing, protein assembly and conformation, and networks of signalling, genetic regulation and metabolism form

complex systems with redundancy and feedback. In addition to lab experiments, their workings need to be

unravelled through mathematics; physics; information science; and numerical simulation. Exploring linguistic

alternatives and descriptions is necessary as we must talk about complex things, e.g., discussing alternatives to Set

Theory (fuzzy sets; rough sets) may discover a more useful or powerful language (more expressive, more

computationally efficient) to describe what we are trying to work with. FBIT has a track in Rough Sets and papers

that explore this theme. Moreover, this conference offers instruction in what it means to “sense” an environment

meaningfully - we have sessions in Biomedicine, Haptics and Neuroscience.

We suppose that participants are concerned with “tricks that may help to shed light on a complex situation”: a

(much needed) way to determine the level of complexity beyond which it is safe to apply Occam’s Razor [2], or a

revelation about a principle that explains a complex pattern, e.g., diffusiondriven instability, or a revealed constraint

that allows one to discard a whole set of possibilities in the search for a solution, e.g., as with the Ramachandran

angles [3,4] that have helped to shed light on protein conformation, or Metabolic Flux Balance analysis [5,6] for

pathways. We feel that different communities of investigators must communicate with one another at conference

level to pursue and to reuse their own discoveries, seeking useful parallels to accelerate advances.

We are privileged and grateful to the following eminent and leading researchers who have kindly accepted our

invitation to deliver the keynote speeches of FBIT 2007:

Professor Sang Yup Lee: Distinguished Professor and LG Chem Chair Professor, Department of Chemical and

Biomolecular Engineering, Center for Systems and Synthetic Biotechnology, Institute for the BioCentury, Korea

Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) for his keynote speech entitled: Systems and Synthetic

Biotechnology.