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The past decade has witnessed a growing trend in designing and using workflow systems with a focus on supporting the scientific research process in bioinformatics and other areas of life sciences. The aim of these systems is mainly to simplify access, control and orchestration of remote distributed scientific data sets using remote computational resources, such as EBI web services. In this paper we present the state of the art in the field by reviewing six such systems: Discovery Net, Taverna, Triana, Kepler, Yawl and BPEL. We provide a high-level framework for comparing the systems based on their control flow and data flow properties with a view of both informing future research in the area by academic researchers and facilitating the selection of the most appropriate system for a specific application task by practitioners.