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Guidelines - Life Science


SWAD-Europe guidelines provide pointers into the parts of the SWAD-Europe project that we feel are particularly relevant to the concerns of particular industry segments or application area. They are not intended to be definitive guides to the wider semantic web resources relevant to the area.

Semantic Web and life science

Life science is a very information rich set of activities which mesh well with the semantic web capabilities.

Firstly, there has been huge effort within life science in general, and healthcare and drug discovery in particular, to codify vocabularies, thesauri and ontologies to facilitate information sharing. Well known examples of these include the Gene Ontology, the BioPax molecular pathway ontology, the NCI Cancer Ontology and the National Library of Medicine UMLS metathesaurus (and associated projects SKR). The semantic web standards for encoding ontologies are very relevant here and several of these example ontologies are already available in OWL format.

Secondly, there is huge diversity of information involved in areas such as drug discovery - genomics, proteomics, protein structure, molecular pathways, assay results, toxicology, clinical trial results, peer publications, moderated discussion forums etc. What's more many of the information sources are often public or cross organizational leading to a requirement for information integration and exchange based on open standards. Several activities are already underway to explore the use of RDF to facilitate this data exchange and integration. These include protein sequence data (UniProt in RDF), publication information ( Nature Publishing Group newsfeed) and identifiers for life science data objects and concepts (LSID).

Thirdly, there are many online services for processing life science information (such as BLAST services for sequence alignment) which are being made available as web services. This raises the question of whether the semantic web can be exploited to describe these web services to both facilitate discovery and, in the long term, to enable semiautomatic combination of services. Projects in this area based on semantic web approaches include BioMoby and MyGrid.

There has been sufficiently much activity in this area to prompt W3C to host discussions and workshops specific to applying the semantic web to life sciences: [archives] [links] [workshop]

Relevant SWAD-Europe resources

The key SWAD-Europe themes relevant here are: