Unveiling the W3C HCLSIG Charter

In early September, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) approved a new charter for its Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group (HCLSIG), in which Michel Dumontier (Carleton University), Charlie Mead (NCI/CBIIT) and Vijay Bulusu (Pfizer) were selected as co-chairs. This new charter directs us to develop, advocate and support the use of Semantic Web technologies for translational medicine and its three enabling domains: life sciences, clinical research and health care. We take care to note that under the direction of former co-chairs Susie Stephens, Chimezi Ogbuji and M. Scott Marshall, the HCLSIG has accumulated a large list of accomplishments that includes winning open challenges, ontologies to semantically annotate integrate large collections of linked open data, tools to query across semantic databases, and applications that exploit the knowledge therein, particularly when it comes to translational medicine. Hence, while the core HCLSIG values – simplicity, pragmatism, effectiveness – remain firmly in place, the three of us hope to make subtle changes to the operational strategy such that our efforts become increasingly recognized as critical in conferences and boardrooms across the globe.

The HCLSIG will continue to build prototype implementations that demonstrate the value of formalizing and sharing knowledge using Semantic Web technologies. We will marshal our efforts towards fulfilling compelling use cases that have intrinsic value to not just W3C members, but ideally to a larger number of outside benefactors. Thus, our experts will now develop these use cases such that a priori we have a clearer picture of the rationale of the project, its resources, milestones and deliverables, and ultimately, which organizations and communities will directly and indirectly benefit. Coupled with an effective dissemination strategy including leverage our combined social networks, we hope to maximize the impact of the work of our members in this emerging area of knowledge management.

As part of our dissemination strategy, we also intend to produce more member contributions that describe methods for basic and advanced tasks, in addition to publishing recommendations arising from consensus among our members. Such recommendations will endorse and specify the use of terminological resources in the long term context of semantic interoperability across the three core domains. Thus, participation in the HCLSIG will be critical for those wanting to advocate RDF-representations of data, OWL representations of ontologies, for the purposes of semantic annotation and large scale, semantic integration of biomedical data.

Please join us our monthly teleconference call on Thursday October 6, 2011 to meet the new co-chairs and discuss changes in the charter and mandate of the W3C HCLSIG. We invite non-members to join the W3C and work with our strong compliment of experts in what will surely be an exciting and productive time over the next few years.

About Michel Dumontier

Dr. Michel Dumontier is a recognized expert in developing and applying semantic web technologies in the biomedical and life sciences. He is the current co-chair for the W3C Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group (HCLSIG) and lead for the Translational Medicine task force. Dr. Dumontier is an Associate Professor of Bioinformatics at Carleton University in the Department of Biology, the Institute of Biochemistry and School of Computer Science. His research aims to improve our ability to represent and reason about biomedical knowledge, from experimental data to general textbook knowledge, towards building predictive systems for personalized medicine. With over 80 research publications in workshops, conferences, and journals, his innovative research is developing exciting opportunities towards pharmacogenomic based knowledge discovery.

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