Our work to date comprises a pilot effort, and more work remains to produce a final database of searchable resources. Expansion and improvement of the BRO and BIM are ongoing activities, being performed in parallel with an additional “deep dive” of resource inventorying taking place at the University of Pittsburgh, and in collaboration with NIF and the eagle-i Consortium for resource discovery. Other active areas of development include improving performance and usability of the query tool, enhancement of the BIM with specific modules for specific high-level resource types, and a new version of the Biositemaps Editor that will enable batch editing and import.
In addition to expanded breadth and depth of BRO classes, we will be pursuing three other efforts, each intended to better facilitate the guiding use cases for the project. Recall Use Case 3 from above: A researcher is studying physiology and metabolism. She already makes use of a calorimeter at her home institution, but is not aware of a double-labeled water technology to quantify oxidation, available at another institution – and useful for various applications within the study of metabolism and physiology. In the current version, this researcher is able to search for a physiology Core facility, and might learn from contacting that Core about the double-labeled water technology they use. A number of enhancements to the BRO could help better support a researcher in this situation by incorporating knowledge about the pertinent technologies with the resources.
The first potential enhancement, as mentioned above, is to include additional properties within the BRO itself. While still adhering to our design principle of simplicity, augmenting BRO beyond the current is-a relationships would enable richer querying capabilities. A relation such as “used_for” could be added, enabling resources that are used for similar purposes to be inferred.
Second, we plan to link to ontologies that include richer relationships than the BRO is-a
classification. For example, we plan an extension of the BRO to include instrument terms from OBI [18
]. As addressed above, the domain of the BRO is limited to class names and a hierarchy that satisfy “Resources that provides…” or “Resources that provide access to…” Ontologies such as instrument types or classifications do not fall into these definitions, but have richer relationships such as has_component
. Incorporating these richer relationships into the BRO and the BIM will also help to build connections with other research inventory initiatives such as NIF, NITRC, and the eagle-i Consortium.
The final potential enhancement involves extension of the BIM. Through our formal interviews, we found that in addition to searching explicitly by resource type, researchers were interested in the possibility of searching by their area of research or by the type of activity in which they were involved. This researcher would not have known to search for double-labeled water technology by name, but might have found that and other useful resources had she been able to search by her areas of research, physiology and metabolism. Our initial idea for how to enable this functionality was to create two additional top level classes in the BRO as siblings of Resource: Related Area of Research, and Related Activities. In fact we did create these additional classes, and these are implemented as properties in the current specification of the BIM. However, it soon became apparent that many of the terms that would belong in these branches of the hierarchy already exist in other existing, more mature and previously developed terminologies. Instead of continuing to develop these branches, we plan to investigate some likely candidates for existing terminologies that would serve this purpose, for example the Ontology of Biomedical Investigations (OBI), MeSH or the NCI Thesaurus.