focus on data, information, and knowledge, but do not provide an adequate definition of these terms.
Leveraging insights from the philosophy of information, we define informatics as the science of information,
where information is data plus meaning. Biomedical informatics is the science ofinformation as
applied to or studied in the context of biomedicine. Defining the object of study of informatics as data
plus meaning clearly distinguishes the field from related fields, such as computer science, statistics
and biomedicine, which have different objects of study. The emphasis on data plus meaning also suggests
that biomedical informatics problems tend to be difficult when they dealwith concepts that are hard to
capture using formal, computational definitions. In other words, problems where meaning must be considered
are more difficult than problems where manipulating data without regard for meaning is sufficient.
Furthermore, the definition implies that informatics research, teaching, and service should focus
on biomedical information as data plus meaning rather thanonly computer applications in biomedicine.
_ 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Biomedical informatics has been an ‘‘emerging field” for decades.
Concern about medical information and the desire to computerize
health care are hardly new. Though originally focused
on traditional paper-based medical records and their management
rather than electronic medical records, the American HealthInformation
Management Association (AHIMA) was founded in 1928 as
the American Association of Medical Record Librarians . Papers
about medical reasoning were published in the 1950’s . Kaiser
Permanente established a department of medical methods
research in September of 1961; one of its goals was to ‘‘begin to
use computers in the practice of medicine” . In 1962, they
obtained theirfirst federal grants to automate and improve screening
methods . Recent developments have thrust informatics into
the national spotlight as part of a massive economic stimulus package
known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Yet there is still no universally accepted definition of medical,
health, bio- or biomedical informatics. Often, any activity that relates
to computing islabeled ‘‘informatics” [5,6]. There is even
some debate regarding the desirability of a definition since any
meaningful definition has the potential to exclude good work 
or restrict the use of informatics as a marketing term. We emphasize
that a definition is not a value judgment. By defining informatics
we are not claiming that informatics is better or worse than
other fields. In orderfor there to be a field of informatics, there
must be definable activities that are not informatics.
Academic informaticians, on the other hand, recognize that a
compelling theoretically-grounded definition of informatics as a
science is desirable . In addition to our desire to define our academic
field, a definition can help the field address practical issues,
_ Educationalprogram design: provide a clear vision of our field to
students, guide curriculum development and evaluation within
_ Administrative decisions: make a clear and consistent case for
resources to administrators, to guide informatics units (academic
and service-oriented) with respect to hiring faculty or
staff, relationship to other organizational units and performance
metrics_ Communication: including internal communication among informaticians
and external communication with those outside of
our field; a definition can help match current and potential collaborators,
guide informatics societies such as the American and
International Medical Informatics Associations (AMIA and IMIA,
respectively), and help funding agencies and members of the