In a retrospective review, a parallel is drawn between the challenges by which a research department in biomedical informatics is confronted and those of a symphony orchestra. In both areas, different disciplines and different groups of instruments can be discerned. The importance of mastering one's instrument and the harmony between the team members is stressed. The conductor has to stimulate the individual players so that they can all have a successful career. Competition between orchestras and performance assessments determine survival and success. A record of refereed publications is crucial for continued existence.
Conclusions are that biomedical informatics is typically multidisciplinary, that hypotheses underlying research should be carefully formulated, that the time from research to application may easily take 20 years or more, that mutual trust and knowing each other's competences is essential for success, that a good leader gives enough room to all team members to develop their careers, and that the outcomes of assessment studies are related to the quality of publications.
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