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The content of this blog expresses opinions solely of the author and not necessarily those of their employer or PhUSE.

Since Christmas I have been frantically researching the Semantic Web, since , frankly, the available technology blows my mind.  Last week I had the opportunity to attend a small conference in Cambridge MA focusing solely on Semantic Technology in the Life Sciences (CSHALS).  I learned quite a few things that I thought would be good to share.

  1. Data Integration – You know how integrating two studies worth of data is really really hard?  It shouldn’t be, but there are always little things that throw off the ‘just set the datasets together.’  Now imagine trying to integrate all of the worlds’ information.  THAT would be impossible.  But, THAT, is exactly what Semantic Web is trying to do (and largely succeeding).  And if they can do it at this massive scale, then I think it is worth trying it out with our humble data.
  2. Cooperation without Coordination – This is huge.  In typical technologies, for Cooperation you need a lot of Coordination.  You have to get everyone in a room, decide what you are going to do and agree to it.  This has a high cost associated with it, and is flat out impossible (in my opinion) if the people you are trying to coordinate are direct competitors or simply have nothing to do with each other.  Well, what if you could still get the ‘Cooperation’ without this ‘Coordination.’  Think of the flexibility this would add.  People could continue to work like they do now, but at the end the data would be able to be integrated.
  3. RDF – The standard for representing data.  I’m not going to try to explain it (though it’s not difficult).  You can read about it here.   Also note that RDF is one of the technologies that the FDA is looking at for a data exchange format (replacement of XPT files). .
  4. OWL – Whenever I mention ontologies to people they get scared.  They think it’s something complex that they’ll never understand.  It’s not.  I think of it as standard vocabulary.  You’ll get it.  Start with some videos.
  5. There is a lot to learn – Being at this conference taught me that there is some mind-blowing life-altering technology out there. 

This is my new pet project, so I’ll be blogging more about this.

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