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Informatics applies the principles of information science to solve problems using data. It involves the practice of information processing and the engineering of information systems. The field considers the interaction between humans and information alongside the construction of interfaces, organisations, technologies and systems. As such, informatics encompasses many academic disciplines, including computer science, information systems, information technology and statistics. Since the advent of computers, individuals and organizations increasingly process information digitally. This has led to the study of informatics with computational, mathematical, biological, cognitive and social aspects, including study of the social impact of information technologies.
In 1956, the German computer scientist Karl Steinbuch coined the word Informatik by publishing a paper called Informatik: Automatische Informationsverarbeitung ("Informatics: Automatic Information Processing"). The German word Informatik is usually translated to English as 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 and associates who co-founded Informatics Inc., and informatica (Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, Dutch), referring to the application of computers to store and process information.
The term was coined as a combination of "information" and "automatic" to describe the science of automating information interactions. 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.
One of the earliest uses of informatics was during the 1950s with the beginning of computer use in healthcare (Nelson & Staggers p.4). Early practitioners interested in the field soon learned that there were no formal education programs, and none emerged until the late 1960s. Professional development therefore played a significant role in the development of health informatics (Nelson &Staggers p.7).
According to Imhoff et al., 2001, healthcare informatics is not only the application of computer technology to problems in healthcare, but covers all aspects of generation, handling, communication, storage, retrieval, management, analysis, discovery, and synthesis of data information and knowledge in the entire scope of healthcare. Furthermore, they stated that the primary goal of health informatics can be distinguished as follows:
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 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, because 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 distinguishes informatics from computer science. Informatics includes the study of biological and social mechanisms of information processing whereas computer science focuses on the digital computation. 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.
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". Indeed, "In the U.S., however, informatics is linked with applied computing, or computing in the context of another domain."
Informatics encompasses the study of systems that represent, process, and communicate information. However, the theory of computation in the specific discipline of theoretical computer science, which evolved from Alan Turing, studies the notion of a complex system regardless of whether or not information actually exists. Since both fields process information, there is some disagreement among scientists as to field hierarchy; for example Arizona State University attempted to adopt a broader definition of informatics to even encompass cognitive science at the launch of its School of Computing and Informatics in September 2006.
A broad interpretation of informatics, as "the study of the structure, algorithms, 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.
- 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.
Academic schools and departments
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Academic research in the informatics area can be found in a number of disciplines such as computer science, information technology, Information and Computer Science, information systems, business information management and health informatics.
In France, the first degree level qualifications in Informatics (computer science) appeared in the mid-1960s.
In English-speaking countries, the first example of a degree level qualification in Informatics occurred in 1982 when Plymouth Polytechnic (now the University of Plymouth) in the U.K. offered a four-year BSc(Honours) degree in Computing and Informatics – with an initial intake of only 35 students. The course still runs today  making it the longest available qualification in the subject.
When it was founded in the year 2000, Indiana University's Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering (Bloomington, and Indianapolis) was the first school of informatics in the United States. Indiana University (IU) also produced the first Informatics Ph.D in the United States. IU defines informatics as "the art, science, and human dimensions of information technology" and "the study, application, and social consequences of technology." It is also defined in Informatics 101, "Introduction to Informatics", as "the application of information technology to the arts, sciences, and professions." These definitions are widely accepted in the United States, and differ from British usage in omitting the study of natural computation. Students at Indiana University-Bloomington pursuing a B.S. in Informatics can concentrate their studies in 21 different cognates across a variety of fields like security informatics, health informatics, music informatics, and business informatics.
Texas Woman's University places its informatics degrees in its department of Mathematics and Computer Science within the College of Arts & Sciences, though it offers interdisciplinary Health Informatics degrees. Informatics is presented in a generalist framework, as evidenced by their definition of informatics ("Using technology and data analytics to derive meaningful information from data for data and decision driven practice in user centered systems"), though TWU is also known for its nursing and health informatics programs.
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."
At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Informatics interdisciplinary major, informatics is defined as "the study of information and the ways information is used by and affects human beings and social systems. The major involves coursework from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, where the Informatics major is housed, as well as the School of Information and the College of Engineering. Key to this growing field is that it applies both technological and social perspectives to the study of information. Michigan's interdisciplinary approach to teaching Informatics gives a solid grounding in contemporary computer programming, mathematics, and statistics, combined with study of the ethical and social science aspects of complex information systems. Experts in the field help design new information technology tools for specific scientific, business, and cultural needs." Michigan offers four curricular tracks within the informatics degree to provide students with increased expertise. These four track topics include Internet Informatics, Data Mining & Information Analysis, Life Science Informatics, and Social Computing.
At the University of Washington, Seattle Informatics Undergraduate Program, Informatics is an undergraduate program offered by the Information School. Bachelor of Science in Informatics is described as "[a] program that focuses on computer systems from a user-centered perspective and studies the structure, behavior and interactions of natural and artificial systems that store, process and communicate information. Includes instruction in information sciences, human computer interaction, information system analysis and design, telecommunications structure and information architecture and management." Washington offers three degree options as well as a custom track.
- Data Science Option: Data Science is an emerging interdisciplinary field that works to extract knowledge or insight from data. It combines fields such as information science, computer science, statistics, design, and social science.
- Human-Computer Interaction: The iSchool's work in human-computer interaction (HCI) strives to make information and computing useful, usable, and accessible to all. The Informatics HCI option allows one to blend your technical skills and expertise with a broader perspective on how design and development work impacts users. Courses explore the design, construction, and evaluation of interactive technologies for use by individuals, groups, and organizations, and the social implications of these systems. This work encompasses user interfaces, accessibility concerns, new design techniques and methods for interactive systems and collaboration. Coursework also examines the values implicit in the design and development of technology.
- Information Architecture: Information architecture (IA) is a crucial component in the development of successful Web sites, software, intranets, and online communities. Architects structure the underlying information and its presentation in a logical and intuitive way so that people can put information to use. As an Informatics major with an IA option, one will master the skills needed to organize and label information for improved navigation and search. One will build frameworks to effectively collect, store and deliver information. One will also learn to design the databases and XML storehouses that drive complex and interactive websites, including the navigation, content layout, personalization, and transactional features of the site.
- Information Assurance and Cybersecurity: Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (IAC) is the practice of creating and managing safe and secure systems. It is crucial for organizations public and private, large and small. In the IAC option, one will be equipped with the knowledge to create, deploy, use, and manage systems that preserve individual and organizational privacy and security. This tri-campus concentration leverages the strengths of the Information School, the Computing and Software Systems program at UW Bothell, and the Institute of Technology at UW Tacoma. After a course in the technical, policy, and management foundations of IAC, one may take electives at any campus to learn such specialties as information assurance policy, secure coding, or networking and systems administration.
- Custom (Student-Designed Concentration): Students may choose to develop their own concentration, with approval from the academic adviser. Student-designed concentrations are created out of a list of approved courses and also result in the Bachelor of Science degree.
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One of the most significant areas of application of informatics is that of organizational informatics. Organizational informatics is fundamentally interested in the application of information, information systems and ICT within organisations of various forms including private sector, public sector and voluntary sector organisations. As such, organisational informatics can be seen to be a sub-category of social informatics and a super-category of business informatics. Organizational informatics are also present in the computer science and information technology industry.
- Artificial intelligence
- Data Science
- Behavior informatics
- Cognitive science
- Computer science
- Communication studies
- Information and communications technology
- Information processing
- Information science
- Information systems
- Information theory
- Information technology
- Knowledge Management
- Urban informatics
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- Dreyfus, Phillipe. L’informatique. Gestion, Paris, June 1962, pp. 240–41
- Oxford English Dictionary 1989
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- Nelson, R. & Staggers, N. Health Informatics: An Interprofessional Approach. St. Louis: Mosby, 2013. Print. (p.4,7)
- Mikhailov, A.I., Chernyl, A.I., and Gilyarevskii, R.S. (1966) "Informatika – novoe nazvanie teorii naučnoj informacii." Naučno tehničeskaja informacija, 12, pp. 35–39.
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- MacKie-Mason, Dennis P Groth, Jeffrey K. "Why an Informatics Degree? - February 2010 - Communications of the ACM". cacm.acm.org.
- For example, at University of Reading, Sussex, City University, Ulster Archived 2006-04-20 at the Wayback Machine, Bradford Archived 2006-05-17 at the Wayback Machine, Manchester and Newcastle Archived 2003-09-07 at Archive.today
- "UoA 23 Computer Science and Informatics, Panel working methods" (PDF). rae.ac.uk.
- BSc(Hons) Computing Informatics – University of Plymouth Link Archived 2005-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
- "Change the world with informatics". Department of Informatics. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
- "Informatics - Texas Woman's University".
- "Curriculum - Informatics - University of Michigan". University of Michigan. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- "Concentration: Informatics - LSA Students - University of Michigan". archive.li. 7 January 2013. Archived from the original on 7 January 2013.
- "Degree Options". University of Washington Information School. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- Beynon-Davies P. (2002). Information Systems: an introduction to informatics in Organisations. Palgrave, Basingstoke, UK. ISBN 0-333-96390-3
- Beynon-Davies P. (2009). Business Information Systems. Palgrave, Basingstoke, UK. ISBN 978-0-230-20368-6
- Informatics : 10 years back, 10 years ahead. Wilhelm, R. (Reinhard), 1946-. Berlin: Springer. 2001. ISBN 9783540416357. OCLC 45873721.CS1 maint: others (link)
|Look up informatics in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- informatics: entry from International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science
- Informatics Studies: Journal of Centre for Informatics Research and Development
- Software History Center: First usage of informatics in the US
- What is Informatics? : Indiana University
- Q&A about informatics
- Prior Art Database: Informatics: An Early Software Company
- Informatics Europe
- The Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS)
- Informatics Department, College of Computing and Information, University at Albany - State University of New York
- Department of Informatics, King's College London
- An Informatics Education: What and who is it for?, from Northern Kentucky University
- Texas Woman's University's Informatics on Facebook
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers - Mechatronics, Informatics and Control Group (MICG)