I was still thinking about recent Neil’s wondering about possibility of automating every scientific workflow, when I saw this (Bioinformatics Advance Access abstract):
The Taverna Interaction Service: enabling manual interaction in workflows by Anders Lanzén and Tom Oinn
Taverna is an application that eases the integration of tools and databases for life science research by the construction of workflows. The Taverna Interaction Service extends the functionality of Taverna by defining human interaction within a workflow and acting as a mediation layer between the automated workflow engine and one or more users.
I have not tried it yet but this Taverna plugin is very likely an answer to doubts I often have when automation of bioinformatics workflows is discussed: we shouldn’t always remove ourselves from the workflow, as interaction with software can be often critical in making a discovery. For example conscious decision about which sequences should go in during PSI-BLAST search can dramatically influence quality of resulting profile. So I agree with Neil that not every workflow can be automated, but more importantly not every workflow should be. Possibility of wrapping one’s mind around a problem is gone when there’s no feedback loop on the process.