This charter is now expired; please see the next HCLS IG charter.


Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group Charter

The mission of the Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group, part of the Semantic Web Activity, is to develop, advocate for, and support the use of Semantic Web technologies for health care and life science, with focus on biological science and translational medicine. These domains stand to gain tremendous benefit by adoption of Semantic Web technologies, as they depend on the interoperability of information from many domains and processes for efficient decision support.

The group will:

Join the Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group.

End date31 May 2011
ConfidentialityProceedings are Public
Initial ChairsSusie Stephens, Chimezi Ogbuji, M. Scott Marshall
Initial Team Contacts
(FTE %: 60)
Eric Prud'hommeaux
Usual Meeting ScheduleTeleconferences: Weekly
Face-to-face: at least one per year


The HCLSIG will provide a forum for supporting, guiding and collecting application and implementation experience. It will develop and support Semantic Web technologies in the three focus areas: life science, translational medicine, and health care. Within these areas, it will address use cases that have clear scientific, business, and/or technical value. HCLSIG will solicit advice on technical matters from other Semantic Web related groups within W3C and give feedback on the use of technologies based on the work they do. The IG will extensively liason with external organizations that are central to the areas to which we wish to contribute. In some cases, work started in HCLSIG may be proposed to spin out into a separately chartered group. It is specifically in scope to:

Success Criteria

  • Increased consensus around vocabulary choice and use of terminology spanning patient records and clinical research.
  • Development of consensus around core taxonomies and methodologies for representing knowledge in Life Science, Translational Medicine and Health Care.
  • Adoption of these taxonomies and methodologies by standards organizations that are focused on life science and health care leading to increased understanding and adoption of Semantic Web technologies.
  • Presentation of these taxonomies and methodologies to government, academia and industry organizations that have a keen interest in the application of information technology to these domains, and support of their efforts to adopt Semantic Web technologies.


Biological Science

An understanding of the fundamental underlying principles of biology forms the basis on which all biomedical research relies. Biological research investigates phenomena at a range of scales: molecules, cells, cell populations, tissues, organs, organisms, populations, and ecosystems and employs an astounding variety of experimental techniques, instruments and reagents. This research (e.g. gene expression, phenotypes, chemical screening, ...) generates data and conclusions from which new hypotheses are drawn which subsequently propel new studies at an ever increasing rate. The resulting proliferation of isolated databases hampers efforts to combine results.

The HCLSIG focus area will aid this enterprise and provide ways for researchers in the applied fields to make the best use of the richness of this rapidly accumulating knowledge. HCLSIG activities in the this area will include working with key data repositories towards their semantic integration by advocating for and assisting labs, database creators and publishers who would make information accessible using Semantic Web technologies. The group will apply ontologies to the integration of heterogeneous data, show how common analysis tools can use data from and publish to the Semantic Web, and explore other ways that Semantic Web technologies might further facilitate this scientific work.

Translational Medicine

Recent advances in biological understanding are allowing pharmaceutical companies to begin to develop tailored therapeutics, thereby allowing patients to receive the right drug, at the right dose, and at the right time. However, in order for such treatments to be developed, companies need to be able to better link data from the laboratory to the clinic (bench to bedside). This concept is frequently referred to as translational medicine.

This HCLSIG activity will provide resources that demonstrate the value of Semantic Web technologies to translational medicine. Activities in this area will focus on connecting pre-clinical and clinical trial data with clinical decision support knowledge in order to assess drug efficacy and safety. Examples of potential activities include the integration of health outcome data for identification of safety signals, aggregation of clinical trials data for identification of studies of interest, demonstration of the minimal costs required for the integration of unforeseen data sets into an existing data model to enable answering unanticipated scientific questions, and the creation of dashboards that show how heterogeneous and disparate data can be integrated to aid decision making.

Health Care

Within the larger domain of health care there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for information systems that capture expressive clinical data, host rich clinical knowledge, and are able to deliver robust decision support on behalf of healthcare quality improvement and clinical research. This HCLSIG activity will focus on applying the strengths of Semantic Web technologies directly relevant to meeting this demand. A primary goal will be to aid in efforts to unify the collection of data for the purpose of both primary care (electronic medical records) and clinical research (patient recruitment, study management, outcomes-based longitudinal analysis, etc.).

This interest group will work towards promoting this goal in several ways. First, it will attempt to work with ongoing efforts to standardize and harmonize the acquisition and exchange of medical data led by standard bodies such as the CDISC, Health Level Seven (HL7) and BRIDG, enabling the use of these standards with Semantic Web technologies. Second, it will collaborate with efforts focused on building formal ontologies for clinical medicine and investigations expressed in Semantic Web languages such as OWL and RDFS. Finally, it will explore enabling interoperability through the documentation of mappings between terminologies.

Another topic of interest is building innovative clinical decision support capabilities into patient record systems. Our task in this area is to identify best practices for clinical guideline representation in such a way that standards-based reasoning systems and knowledge sources can be leveraged in these patient record systems.



W3C Groups

The OWL Working Group
to share feedback on the use of OWL in the proof of concept work
Rule Interchange Format (RIF) Working Group
to share feedback and solicit technical advice on the use of rules in the proof of concept work

External Groups

American Medical Information Association (AMIA)
which has working groups that serve as a mechanism to exchange information on topical areas of biomedical and health informatics.
Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC)
which has the goal to develop and support global, platform-independent data standards that enable information system interoperability to improve medical a research and related areas of healthcare.
Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
which is focused on providing leadership for the optimal use of health information technology and management systems for the betterment of healthcare.
Health Level 7 (HL7)
which develops standards for electronic interchange of clinical, financial, and administrative information among healthcare oriented computer systems.
International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization
which has the goal to develop, maintain, promote and enable the uptake and correct use of its terminology products in health systems, services and products around the world.
National Centers for Biomedical Ontology (NCBO)
which is a consortium that develops innovative technology and methods that allow scientists to create, disseminate, and manage biomedical information and knowledge in a machine readable form.
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT)
which allows comprehensive management of medical information and its secure exchange between health care consumers and providers
Open Biomedical Ontologies Foundry
a collaborative effort to design science-based ontologies and principles for ontology development.

Coordination with other W3C groups will be managed through the Semantic Web Coordination Group. Given the importance of interaction with outside groups, the HCLSIG will have designated liasons to manage critical relationships, to be on the lookout for other organizations that we might work with — both within and outside North America — and to provide advise and support for additional liason opportunities within the group.

The HCLSIG may identify and build support for additional Working Groups. The preparation for these groups, typically in the form of an interest group note, list of requirements, or draft charter, will be communicated to the Semantic Web Coordination Group for consideration.


Participation in the Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group is open to the public. Any person interested in this topic is welcome to participate in this Interest Group. Individuals who wish to participate as Invited Experts (i.e., they do not represent a W3C Member) should refer to the policy for approval of Invited Experts. Invited Experts in this group are not granted access to Member-only information.

There are no minimum requirements for participation in this group. Participants are strongly encouraged to take advantage of frequent opportunities to review and comment on deliverables from other groups.

The Chair may call occasional meetings consistent with the W3C Process requirements for meetings.


This group primarily conducts its work on the Public mailing list (archive). As appropriate, other public mailing lists may be created for more targeted discussions. Records of the history of the group, meeting minutes, an updated schedule of deliverables, membership list, and relevant documents and resources will be maintained on the public HCLSIG Wiki.

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group home page.

Decision Policy

As explained in the Process Document (section 3.3), this group will seek to make decisions when there is consensus. When the Chair puts a question and observes dissent, after due consideration of different opinions, the Chair should record a decision (possibly after a formal vote) and any objections, and move on.

This charter is written in accordance with Section 3.4, Votes of the W3C Process Document and includes no voting procedures beyond what the Process Document requires.

Patent Disclosures

The Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group provides an opportunity to share perspectives on the topic addressed by this charter. W3C reminds Interest Group participants of their obligation to comply with patent disclosure obligations as set out in Section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy. While the Interest Group does not produce Recommendation-track documents, when Interest Group participants review Recommendation-track specifications from Working Groups, the patent disclosure obligations do apply.

For more information about disclosure obligations for this group, please see the W3C Patent Policy Implementation.

About this Charter

This charter for the Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group has been created according to section 6.2 of the Process Document. In the event of a conflict between this document or the provisions of any charter and the W3C Process, the W3C Process shall take precedence.

Please also see the previous charter for this group. This charter has been produced from contributions by the current interest group, in particular, Tonya Hongsermeier, Eric Neumann, Chimezi Ogbuji, Alan Ruttenberg and Susie Stephens.

Eric Prud'hommeaux

$Date: 2011/09/06 16:37:59 $