Informatics includes the science of information, the practice of information processing, and the engineering of information systems. Informatics studies the structure, behavior, and interactions of natural and artificial systems that store, process and communicate information. It also develops its own conceptual and theoretical foundations. Since computers, individuals and organizations all process information, informatics has computational, cognitive and social aspects, including study of the social impact of information technologies.
Used as a compound, in conjunction with the name of a discipline, as in medical informatics, bioinformatics, etc., it denotes the specialization of informatics to the management and processing of data, information and knowledge in the named discipline, and the incorporation of informatic concepts and theories to enrich the other discipline; it has a similar relationship to library science.
Informatics is broader in scope than: information theory—the study of a particular mathematical concept of information; information science—a field primarily concerned with the collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information in human society; artificial intelligence—the study and engineering of intelligent behavior, learning, and adaptation, in machines; or computer science—the study of the storage, processing, and communication of information using engineered computing devices.
In 1957 the German computer scientist Karl Steinbuch coined the word Informatik by publishing a paper called Informatik: Automatische Informationsverarbeitung (i.e. "Informatics: automatic information processing"). The English term Informatics is commonly misunderstood to be the same as computer science. But Informatics is theoretically oriented contrary to computer science and therefore is more oriented towards mathematics than computer science.
The French term informatique was coined in 1962 by Philippe Dreyfus together with various translations—informatics (English), also proposed independently and simultaneously by Walter F.Bauer who co-founded the company named Informatics General Inc., and informatica (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese), referring to the application of computers to store and process information.
The term was coined as a combination of "information" and "automation", to describe the science of automatic information processing. The morphology—informat-ion + -ics—uses "the accepted form for names of sciences, as conics, linguistics, optics, or matters of practice, as economics, politics, tactics", and so, linguistically, the meaning extends easily to encompass both the science of information and the practice of information processing.
This new term was adopted across Western Europe, and, except in English, developed a meaning roughly translated by the English ‘computer science’, or ‘computing science’. Mikhailov et al. advocated the Russian term informatika (1966), and the English informatics (1967), as names for the theory of scientific information, and argued for a broader meaning, including study of the use of information technology in various communities (for example, scientific) and of the interaction of technology and human organizational structures.
- Informatics is the discipline of science which investigates the structure and properties (not specific content) of scientific information, as well as the regularities of scientific information activity, its theory, history, methodology and organization.
Usage has since modified this definition in three ways. First, the restriction to scientific information is removed, as in business informatics or legal informatics. Second, since most information is now digitally stored, computation is now central to informatics. Third, the representation, processing and communication of information are added as objects of investigation, since they have been recognized as fundamental to any scientific account of information. Taking information as the central focus of study, then distinguishes informatics—which includes study of biological and social mechanisms of information processing, from computer science—where digital computation plays a distinguished central role. Similarly, in the study of representation and communication, informatics is indifferent to the substrate that carries information. For example, it encompasses the study of communication using gesture, speech and language, as well as digital communications and networking.
A broad interpretation of informatics, as "the study of the structure, behaviour, and interactions of natural and artificial computational systems," was introduced by the University of Edinburgh in 1994 when it formed the grouping that is now its School of Informatics. This meaning is now (2006) increasingly used in the United Kingdom. Informatics encompasses the study of systems that represent, process, and communicate information, including all computational, cognitive and social aspects. The central notion is the transformation of information — whether by computation or communication, whether by organisms or artifacts. In this sense, informatics can be considered as encompassing computer science, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, information science and related fields, and as extending the scope of computer science to encompass computation in natural, as well as engineered, computational systems. Arizona State University adopted this broader definition at the launch of its School of Computing and Informatics in September 2006.
- The UoA includes the study of methods for acquiring, storing, processing, communicating and reasoning about information, and the role of interactivity in natural and artificial systems,through the implementation, organisation and use of computer hardware, software and other resources. The subjects are characterised by the rigorous application of analysis, experimentation and design.
At the Indiana University School of Informatics, informatics is defined as "the art, science and human dimensions of information technology" and "the study, application, and social consequences of technology." These definitions are widely accepted in the United States, and differ from British usage in omitting the study of natural computation.
At the University of California, Irvine Department of Informatics, informatics is defined as "the interdisciplinary study of the design, application, use and impact of information technology. The discipline of informatics is based on the recognition that the design of this technology is not solely a technical matter, but must focus on the relationship between the technology and its use in real-world settings. That is, informatics designs solutions in context, and takes into account the social, cultural and organizational settings in which computing and information technology will be used."
In the English-speaking world the term informatics was first widely used in the compound, ‘medical informatics’, taken to include "the cognitive, information processing, and communication tasks of medical practice, education, and research, including information science and the technology to support these tasks". Many such compounds are now in use; they can be viewed as different areas of applied informatics.
A practitioner of informatics may be called an informatician.
Informatics was registered as a trademark in the United States by Informatics Inc., which traded from 1966 to 1985. This fact prevented the Association for Computing Machinery from becoming the Society for Informatics. As of October, 2006, a search of the United States Patent and Trademark database reveals no live trademarks on the word "informatics" alone (although many combinations including that word do appear).
- Artificial intelligence
- Computer science
- Cognitive science
- Information science
- Communication studies
- Didactics of Informatics / Didactics of computer science
- Dreyfus, Phillipe. L’informatique. Gestion, Paris, Jun 1962, pp. 240–41
- Oxford English Dictionary 1989
- Mikhailov, A.I., Chernyl, A.I., and Gilyarevskii, R.S. (1966) "Informatika – novoe nazvanie teorii naučnoj informacii." Naučno tehničeskaja informacija, 12, pp. 35–39.
- For example, at Sussex, City University, Ulster, Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle
- UoA 23 Computer Science and Informatics, Panel working methods
- Greenes, R.A. and Shortliffe, E.H. (1990) "Medical Informatics: An emerging discipline with academic and institutional perspectives." Journal of the American Medical Association, 263(8) pp. 1114–20.
- Answers.com: Alternate definitions of the word informatics
- informatics: entry from International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science
- Software History Center: First usage of informatics in the US
- University of Washington Informatics
- Indiana University: What is Informatics?
- Informatics, Inc : founded 1962
- What is Informatics at Edinburgh?
- What is Informatics at the University of California, Irvine?
- What does informatics mean?
- Q&A about informatics
- Prior Art Database: Informatics: An Early Software Company
- Forum for Informatics and Computer Science students