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1.  A Semantic Problem Solving Environment for Integrative Parasite Research: Identification of Intervention Targets for Trypanosoma cruzi 
Research on the biology of parasites requires a sophisticated and integrated computational platform to query and analyze large volumes of data, representing both unpublished (internal) and public (external) data sources. Effective analysis of an integrated data resource using knowledge discovery tools would significantly aid biologists in conducting their research, for example, through identifying various intervention targets in parasites and in deciding the future direction of ongoing as well as planned projects. A key challenge in achieving this objective is the heterogeneity between the internal lab data, usually stored as flat files, Excel spreadsheets or custom-built databases, and the external databases. Reconciling the different forms of heterogeneity and effectively integrating data from disparate sources is a nontrivial task for biologists and requires a dedicated informatics infrastructure. Thus, we developed an integrated environment using Semantic Web technologies that may provide biologists the tools for managing and analyzing their data, without the need for acquiring in-depth computer science knowledge.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We developed a semantic problem-solving environment (SPSE) that uses ontologies to integrate internal lab data with external resources in a Parasite Knowledge Base (PKB), which has the ability to query across these resources in a unified manner. The SPSE includes Web Ontology Language (OWL)-based ontologies, experimental data with its provenance information represented using the Resource Description Format (RDF), and a visual querying tool, Cuebee, that features integrated use of Web services. We demonstrate the use and benefit of SPSE using example queries for identifying gene knockout targets of Trypanosoma cruzi for vaccine development. Answers to these queries involve looking up multiple sources of data, linking them together and presenting the results.
The SPSE facilitates parasitologists in leveraging the growing, but disparate, parasite data resources by offering an integrative platform that utilizes Semantic Web techniques, while keeping their workload increase minimal.
Author Summary
Effective research in parasite biology requires analyzing experimental lab data in the context of constantly expanding public data resources. Integrating lab data with public resources is particularly difficult for biologists who may not possess significant computational skills to acquire and process heterogeneous data stored at different locations. Therefore, we develop a semantic problem solving environment (SPSE) that allows parasitologists to query their lab data integrated with public resources using ontologies. An ontology specifies a common vocabulary and formal relationships among the terms that describe an organism, and experimental data and processes in this case. SPSE supports capturing and querying provenance information, which is metadata on the experimental processes and data recorded for reproducibility, and includes a visual query-processing tool to formulate complex queries without learning the query language syntax. We demonstrate the significance of SPSE in identifying gene knockout targets for T. cruzi. The overall goal of SPSE is to help researchers discover new or existing knowledge that is implicitly present in the data but not always easily detected. Results demonstrate improved usefulness of SPSE over existing lab systems and approaches, and support for complex query design that is otherwise difficult to achieve without the knowledge of query language syntax.
PMCID: PMC3260319  PMID: 22272365
2.  linkedISA: semantic representation of ISA-Tab experimental metadata 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(Suppl 14):S4.
Reporting and sharing experimental metadata- such as the experimental design, characteristics of the samples, and procedures applied, along with the analysis results, in a standardised manner ensures that datasets are comprehensible and, in principle, reproducible, comparable and reusable. Furthermore, sharing datasets in formats designed for consumption by humans and machines will also maximize their use. The Investigation/Study/Assay (ISA) open source metadata tracking framework facilitates standards-compliant collection, curation, visualization, storage and sharing of datasets, leveraging on other platforms to enable analysis and publication. The ISA software suite includes several components used in increasingly diverse set of life science and biomedical domains; it is underpinned by a general-purpose format, ISA-Tab, and conversions exist into formats required by public repositories. While ISA-Tab works well mainly as a human readable format, we have also implemented a linked data approach to semantically define the ISA-Tab syntax.
We present a semantic web representation of the ISA-Tab syntax that complements ISA-Tab's syntactic interoperability with semantic interoperability. We introduce the linkedISA conversion tool from ISA-Tab to the Resource Description Framework (RDF), supporting mappings from the ISA syntax to multiple community-defined, open ontologies and capitalising on user-provided ontology annotations in the experimental metadata. We describe insights of the implementation and how annotations can be expanded driven by the metadata. We applied the conversion tool as part of Bio-GraphIIn, a web-based application supporting integration of the semantically-rich experimental descriptions. Designed in a user-friendly manner, the Bio-GraphIIn interface hides most of the complexities to the users, exposing a familiar tabular view of the experimental description to allow seamless interaction with the RDF representation, and visualising descriptors to drive the query over the semantic representation of the experimental design. In addition, we defined queries over the linkedISA RDF representation and demonstrated its use over the linkedISA conversion of datasets from Nature' Scientific Data online publication.
Our linked data approach has allowed us to: 1) make the ISA-Tab semantics explicit and machine-processable, 2) exploit the existing ontology-based annotations in the ISA-Tab experimental descriptions, 3) augment the ISA-Tab syntax with new descriptive elements, 4) visualise and query elements related to the experimental design. Reasoning over ISA-Tab metadata and associated data will facilitate data integration and knowledge discovery.
PMCID: PMC4255742  PMID: 25472428
3.  Exposing the cancer genome atlas as a SPARQL endpoint 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2010;43(6):998-1008.
The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional effort to characterize several types of cancer. Datasets from biomedical domains such as TCGA present a particularly challenging task for those interested in dynamically aggregating its results because the data sources are typically both heterogeneous and distributed. The Linked Data best practices offer a solution to integrate and discover data with those characteristics, namely through exposure of data as Web services supporting SPARQL, the Resource Description Framework query language. Most SPARQL endpoints, however, cannot easily be queried by data experts. Furthermore, exposing experimental data as SPARQL endpoints remains a challenging task because, in most cases, data must first be converted to Resource Description Framework triples. In line with those requirements, we have developed an infrastructure to expose clinical, demographic and molecular data elements generated by TCGA as a SPARQL endpoint by assigning elements to entities of the Simple Sloppy Semantic Database (S3DB) management model. All components of the infrastructure are available as independent Representational State Transfer (REST) Web services to encourage reusability, and a simple interface was developed to automatically assemble SPARQL queries by navigating a representation of the TCGA domain. A key feature of the proposed solution that greatly facilitates assembly of SPARQL queries is the distinction between the TCGA domain descriptors and data elements. Furthermore, the use of the S3DB management model as a mediator enables queries to both public and protected data without the need for prior submission to a single data source.
PMCID: PMC3071752  PMID: 20851208
TCGA; SPARQL; RDF; Linked Data; Data integration
4.  A journey to Semantic Web query federation in the life sciences 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10(Suppl 10):S10.
As interest in adopting the Semantic Web in the biomedical domain continues to grow, Semantic Web technology has been evolving and maturing. A variety of technological approaches including triplestore technologies, SPARQL endpoints, Linked Data, and Vocabulary of Interlinked Datasets have emerged in recent years. In addition to the data warehouse construction, these technological approaches can be used to support dynamic query federation. As a community effort, the BioRDF task force, within the Semantic Web for Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group, is exploring how these emerging approaches can be utilized to execute distributed queries across different neuroscience data sources.
Methods and results
We have created two health care and life science knowledge bases. We have explored a variety of Semantic Web approaches to describe, map, and dynamically query multiple datasets. We have demonstrated several federation approaches that integrate diverse types of information about neurons and receptors that play an important role in basic, clinical, and translational neuroscience research. Particularly, we have created a prototype receptor explorer which uses OWL mappings to provide an integrated list of receptors and executes individual queries against different SPARQL endpoints. We have also employed the AIDA Toolkit, which is directed at groups of knowledge workers who cooperatively search, annotate, interpret, and enrich large collections of heterogeneous documents from diverse locations. We have explored a tool called "FeDeRate", which enables a global SPARQL query to be decomposed into subqueries against the remote databases offering either SPARQL or SQL query interfaces. Finally, we have explored how to use the vocabulary of interlinked Datasets (voiD) to create metadata for describing datasets exposed as Linked Data URIs or SPARQL endpoints.
We have demonstrated the use of a set of novel and state-of-the-art Semantic Web technologies in support of a neuroscience query federation scenario. We have identified both the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies. While Semantic Web offers a global data model including the use of Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI's), the proliferation of semantically-equivalent URI's hinders large scale data integration. Our work helps direct research and tool development, which will be of benefit to this community.
PMCID: PMC2755818  PMID: 19796394
5.  A self-updating road map of The Cancer Genome Atlas 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(10):1333-1340.
Motivation: Since 2011, The Cancer Genome Atlas’ (TCGA) files have been accessible through HTTP from a public site, creating entirely new possibilities for cancer informatics by enhancing data discovery and retrieval. Significantly, these enhancements enable the reporting of analysis results that can be fully traced to and reproduced using their source data. However, to realize this possibility, a continually updated road map of files in the TCGA is required. Creation of such a road map represents a significant data modeling challenge, due to the size and fluidity of this resource: each of the 33 cancer types is instantiated in only partially overlapping sets of analytical platforms, while the number of data files available doubles approximately every 7 months.
Results: We developed an engine to index and annotate the TCGA files, relying exclusively on third-generation web technologies (Web 3.0). Specifically, this engine uses JavaScript in conjunction with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Resource Description Framework (RDF), and SPARQL, the query language for RDF, to capture metadata of files in the TCGA open-access HTTP directory. The resulting index may be queried using SPARQL, and enables file-level provenance annotations as well as discovery of arbitrary subsets of files, based on their metadata, using web standard languages. In turn, these abilities enhance the reproducibility and distribution of novel results delivered as elements of a web-based computational ecosystem. The development of the TCGA Roadmap engine was found to provide specific clues about how biomedical big data initiatives should be exposed as public resources for exploratory analysis, data mining and reproducible research. These specific design elements align with the concept of knowledge reengineering and represent a sharp departure from top-down approaches in grid initiatives such as CaBIG. They also present a much more interoperable and reproducible alternative to the still pervasive use of data portals.
Availability: A prepared dashboard, including links to source code and a SPARQL endpoint, is available at A video tutorial is available at
PMCID: PMC3654710  PMID: 23595662
6.  The caCORE Software Development Kit: Streamlining construction of interoperable biomedical information services 
Robust, programmatically accessible biomedical information services that syntactically and semantically interoperate with other resources are challenging to construct. Such systems require the adoption of common information models, data representations and terminology standards as well as documented application programming interfaces (APIs). The National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed the cancer common ontologic representation environment (caCORE) to provide the infrastructure necessary to achieve interoperability across the systems it develops or sponsors. The caCORE Software Development Kit (SDK) was designed to provide developers both within and outside the NCI with the tools needed to construct such interoperable software systems.
The caCORE SDK requires a Unified Modeling Language (UML) tool to begin the development workflow with the construction of a domain information model in the form of a UML Class Diagram. Models are annotated with concepts and definitions from a description logic terminology source using the Semantic Connector component. The annotated model is registered in the Cancer Data Standards Repository (caDSR) using the UML Loader component. System software is automatically generated using the Codegen component, which produces middleware that runs on an application server. The caCORE SDK was initially tested and validated using a seven-class UML model, and has been used to generate the caCORE production system, which includes models with dozens of classes. The deployed system supports access through object-oriented APIs with consistent syntax for retrieval of any type of data object across all classes in the original UML model. The caCORE SDK is currently being used by several development teams, including by participants in the cancer biomedical informatics grid (caBIG) program, to create compatible data services. caBIG compatibility standards are based upon caCORE resources, and thus the caCORE SDK has emerged as a key enabling technology for caBIG.
The caCORE SDK substantially lowers the barrier to implementing systems that are syntactically and semantically interoperable by providing workflow and automation tools that standardize and expedite modeling, development, and deployment. It has gained acceptance among developers in the caBIG program, and is expected to provide a common mechanism for creating data service nodes on the data grid that is under development.
PMCID: PMC1379637  PMID: 16398930
7.  Towards ontology-driven navigation of the lipid bibliosphere 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9(Suppl 1):S5.
The indexing of scientific literature and content is a relevant and contemporary requirement within life science information systems. Navigating information available in legacy formats continues to be a challenge both in enterprise and academic domains. The emergence of semantic web technologies and their fusion with artificial intelligence techniques has provided a new toolkit with which to address these data integration challenges. In the emerging field of lipidomics such navigation challenges are barriers to the translation of scientific results into actionable knowledge, critical to the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's syndrome, Mycobacterium infections and cancer.
We present a literature-driven workflow involving document delivery and natural language processing steps generating tagged sentences containing lipid, protein and disease names, which are instantiated to custom designed lipid ontology. We describe the design challenges in capturing lipid nomenclature, the mandate of the ontology and its role as query model in the navigation of the lipid bibliosphere. We illustrate the extent of the description logic-based A-box query capability provided by the instantiated ontology using a graphical query composer to query sentences describing lipid-protein and lipid-disease correlations.
As scientists accept the need to readjust the manner in which we search for information and derive knowledge we illustrate a system that can constrain the literature explosion and knowledge navigation problems. Specifically we have focussed on solving this challenge for lipidomics researchers who have to deal with the lack of standardized vocabulary, differing classification schemes, and a wide array of synonyms before being able to derive scientific insights. The use of the OWL-DL variant of the Web Ontology Language (OWL) and description logic reasoning is pivotal in this regard, providing the lipid scientist with advanced query access to the results of text mining algorithms instantiated into the ontology. The visual query paradigm assists in the adoption of this technology.
PMCID: PMC2259406  PMID: 18315858
8.  COEUS: “semantic web in a box” for biomedical applications 
As the “omics” revolution unfolds, the growth in data quantity and diversity is bringing about the need for pioneering bioinformatics software, capable of significantly improving the research workflow. To cope with these computer science demands, biomedical software engineers are adopting emerging semantic web technologies that better suit the life sciences domain. The latter’s complex relationships are easily mapped into semantic web graphs, enabling a superior understanding of collected knowledge. Despite increased awareness of semantic web technologies in bioinformatics, their use is still limited.
COEUS is a new semantic web framework, aiming at a streamlined application development cycle and following a “semantic web in a box” approach. The framework provides a single package including advanced data integration and triplification tools, base ontologies, a web-oriented engine and a flexible exploration API. Resources can be integrated from heterogeneous sources, including CSV and XML files or SQL and SPARQL query results, and mapped directly to one or more ontologies. Advanced interoperability features include REST services, a SPARQL endpoint and LinkedData publication. These enable the creation of multiple applications for web, desktop or mobile environments, and empower a new knowledge federation layer.
The platform, targeted at biomedical application developers, provides a complete skeleton ready for rapid application deployment, enhancing the creation of new semantic information systems. COEUS is available as open source at
PMCID: PMC3554586  PMID: 23244467
Semantic web framework; Rapid application deployment; Linked data; Web services; Biomedical applications; Biomedical semantics
9.  AlzPharm: integration of neurodegeneration data using RDF 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 3):S4.
Neuroscientists often need to access a wide range of data sets distributed over the Internet. These data sets, however, are typically neither integrated nor interoperable, resulting in a barrier to answering complex neuroscience research questions. Domain ontologies can enable the querying heterogeneous data sets, but they are not sufficient for neuroscience since the data of interest commonly span multiple research domains. To this end, e-Neuroscience seeks to provide an integrated platform for neuroscientists to discover new knowledge through seamless integration of the very diverse types of neuroscience data. Here we present a Semantic Web approach to building this e-Neuroscience framework by using the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and its vocabulary description language, RDF Schema (RDFS), as a standard data model to facilitate both representation and integration of the data.
We have constructed a pilot ontology for BrainPharm (a subset of SenseLab) using RDFS and then converted a subset of the BrainPharm data into RDF according to the ontological structure. We have also integrated the converted BrainPharm data with existing RDF hypothesis and publication data from a pilot version of SWAN (Semantic Web Applications in Neuromedicine). Our implementation uses the RDF Data Model in Oracle Database 10g release 2 for data integration, query, and inference, while our Web interface allows users to query the data and retrieve the results in a convenient fashion.
Accessing and integrating biomedical data which cuts across multiple disciplines will be increasingly indispensable and beneficial to neuroscience researchers. The Semantic Web approach we undertook has demonstrated a promising way to semantically integrate data sets created independently. It also shows how advanced queries and inferences can be performed over the integrated data, which are hard to achieve using traditional data integration approaches. Our pilot results suggest that our Semantic Web approach is suitable for realizing e-Neuroscience and generic enough to be applied in other biomedical fields.
PMCID: PMC1892101  PMID: 17493287
10.  Semantic Web repositories for genomics data using the eXframe platform 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2014;5(Suppl 1):S3.
With the advent of inexpensive assay technologies, there has been an unprecedented growth in genomics data as well as the number of databases in which it is stored. In these databases, sample annotation using ontologies and controlled vocabularies is becoming more common. However, the annotation is rarely available as Linked Data, in a machine-readable format, or for standardized queries using SPARQL. This makes large-scale reuse, or integration with other knowledge bases very difficult.
To address this challenge, we have developed the second generation of our eXframe platform, a reusable framework for creating online repositories of genomics experiments. This second generation model now publishes Semantic Web data. To accomplish this, we created an experiment model that covers provenance, citations, external links, assays, biomaterials used in the experiment, and the data collected during the process. The elements of our model are mapped to classes and properties from various established biomedical ontologies. Resource Description Framework (RDF) data is automatically produced using these mappings and indexed in an RDF store with a built-in Sparql Protocol and RDF Query Language (SPARQL) endpoint.
Using the open-source eXframe software, institutions and laboratories can create Semantic Web repositories of their experiments, integrate it with heterogeneous resources and make it interoperable with the vast Semantic Web of biomedical knowledge.
PMCID: PMC4108874  PMID: 25093072
11.  Life sciences domain analysis model 
Meaningful exchange of information is a fundamental challenge in collaborative biomedical research. To help address this, the authors developed the Life Sciences Domain Analysis Model (LS DAM), an information model that provides a framework for communication among domain experts and technical teams developing information systems to support biomedical research. The LS DAM is harmonized with the Biomedical Research Integrated Domain Group (BRIDG) model of protocol-driven clinical research. Together, these models can facilitate data exchange for translational research.
Materials and methods
The content of the LS DAM was driven by analysis of life sciences and translational research scenarios and the concepts in the model are derived from existing information models, reference models and data exchange formats. The model is represented in the Unified Modeling Language and uses ISO 21090 data types.
The LS DAM v2.2.1 is comprised of 130 classes and covers several core areas including Experiment, Molecular Biology, Molecular Databases and Specimen. Nearly half of these classes originate from the BRIDG model, emphasizing the semantic harmonization between these models. Validation of the LS DAM against independently derived information models, research scenarios and reference databases supports its general applicability to represent life sciences research.
The LS DAM provides unambiguous definitions for concepts required to describe life sciences research. The processes established to achieve consensus among domain experts will be applied in future iterations and may be broadly applicable to other standardization efforts.
The LS DAM provides common semantics for life sciences research. Through harmonization with BRIDG, it promotes interoperability in translational science.
PMCID: PMC3486731  PMID: 22744959
Semantics; knowledge representation (computer); interoperability; life sciences; information model; knowledge bases; knowledge representations; data models; clinical; OMICS; genomics; cancer genomics
12.  Advancing translational research with the Semantic Web 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 3):S2.
A fundamental goal of the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) "Roadmap" is to strengthen Translational Research, defined as the movement of discoveries in basic research to application at the clinical level. A significant barrier to translational research is the lack of uniformly structured data across related biomedical domains. The Semantic Web is an extension of the current Web that enables navigation and meaningful use of digital resources by automatic processes. It is based on common formats that support aggregation and integration of data drawn from diverse sources. A variety of technologies have been built on this foundation that, together, support identifying, representing, and reasoning across a wide range of biomedical data. The Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group (HCLSIG), set up within the framework of the World Wide Web Consortium, was launched to explore the application of these technologies in a variety of areas. Subgroups focus on making biomedical data available in RDF, working with biomedical ontologies, prototyping clinical decision support systems, working on drug safety and efficacy communication, and supporting disease researchers navigating and annotating the large amount of potentially relevant literature.
We present a scenario that shows the value of the information environment the Semantic Web can support for aiding neuroscience researchers. We then report on several projects by members of the HCLSIG, in the process illustrating the range of Semantic Web technologies that have applications in areas of biomedicine.
Semantic Web technologies present both promise and challenges. Current tools and standards are already adequate to implement components of the bench-to-bedside vision. On the other hand, these technologies are young. Gaps in standards and implementations still exist and adoption is limited by typical problems with early technology, such as the need for a critical mass of practitioners and installed base, and growing pains as the technology is scaled up. Still, the potential of interoperable knowledge sources for biomedicine, at the scale of the World Wide Web, merits continued work.
PMCID: PMC1892099  PMID: 17493285
13.  A Semantic Web Management Model for Integrative Biomedical Informatics 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e2946.
Data, data everywhere. The diversity and magnitude of the data generated in the Life Sciences defies automated articulation among complementary efforts. The additional need in this field for managing property and access permissions compounds the difficulty very significantly. This is particularly the case when the integration involves multiple domains and disciplines, even more so when it includes clinical and high throughput molecular data.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The emergence of Semantic Web technologies brings the promise of meaningful interoperation between data and analysis resources. In this report we identify a core model for biomedical Knowledge Engineering applications and demonstrate how this new technology can be used to weave a management model where multiple intertwined data structures can be hosted and managed by multiple authorities in a distributed management infrastructure. Specifically, the demonstration is performed by linking data sources associated with the Lung Cancer SPORE awarded to The University of Texas MDAnderson Cancer Center at Houston and the Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. A software prototype, available with open source at, was developed and its proposed design has been made publicly available as an open source instrument for shared, distributed data management.
The Semantic Web technologies have the potential to addresses the need for distributed and evolvable representations that are critical for systems Biology and translational biomedical research. As this technology is incorporated into application development we can expect that both general purpose productivity software and domain specific software installed on our personal computers will become increasingly integrated with the relevant remote resources. In this scenario, the acquisition of a new dataset should automatically trigger the delegation of its analysis.
PMCID: PMC2491554  PMID: 18698353
14.  A comparison of the temporal expressiveness of three database query methods. 
Time is a multifaceted phenomenon that developers of clinical decision-support systems can model at various levels of complexity. An unresolved issue for the design of clinical databases is whether the underlying data model should support interval semantics. In this paper, we examine whether interval-based operations are required for querying protocol-based conditions. We report on an analysis of a set of 256 eligibility criteria that the T-HELPER system uses to screen patients for enrollment in eight clinical-trial protocols for HIV disease. We consider three data-manipulation methods for temporal querying: the consensus query representation Arden Syntax, the commercial standard query language SQL, and the temporal query language TimeLineSQL (TLSQL). We compare the ability of these three query methods to express the eligibility criteria. Seventy nine percent of the 256 criteria require operations on time stamps. These temporal conditions comprise four distinct patterns, two of which use interval-based data. Our analysis indicates that the Arden Syntax can query the two non-interval patterns, which represent 54% of the temporal conditions. Timepoint comparisons formulated in SQL can instantiate the two non-interval patterns and one interval pattern, which encompass 96% of the temporal conditions. TLSQL, which supports an interval-based model of time, can express all four types of temporal patterns. Our results demonstrate that the T-HELPER system requires simple temporal operations for most protocol-based queries. Of the three approaches tested, TLSQL is the only query method that is sufficiently expressive for the temporal conditions in this system.
PMCID: PMC2579109  PMID: 8563296
15.  SSWAP: A Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol for semantic web services 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:309.
SSWAP (Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol; pronounced "swap") is an architecture, protocol, and platform for using reasoning to semantically integrate heterogeneous disparate data and services on the web. SSWAP was developed as a hybrid semantic web services technology to overcome limitations found in both pure web service technologies and pure semantic web technologies.
There are currently over 2400 resources published in SSWAP. Approximately two dozen are custom-written services for QTL (Quantitative Trait Loci) and mapping data for legumes and grasses (grains). The remaining are wrappers to Nucleic Acids Research Database and Web Server entries. As an architecture, SSWAP establishes how clients (users of data, services, and ontologies), providers (suppliers of data, services, and ontologies), and discovery servers (semantic search engines) interact to allow for the description, querying, discovery, invocation, and response of semantic web services. As a protocol, SSWAP provides the vocabulary and semantics to allow clients, providers, and discovery servers to engage in semantic web services. The protocol is based on the W3C-sanctioned first-order description logic language OWL DL. As an open source platform, a discovery server running at (as in to "swap info") uses the description logic reasoner Pellet to integrate semantic resources. The platform hosts an interactive guide to the protocol at , developer tools at , and a portal to third-party ontologies at (a "swap meet").
SSWAP addresses the three basic requirements of a semantic web services architecture (i.e., a common syntax, shared semantic, and semantic discovery) while addressing three technology limitations common in distributed service systems: i.e., i) the fatal mutability of traditional interfaces, ii) the rigidity and fragility of static subsumption hierarchies, and iii) the confounding of content, structure, and presentation. SSWAP is novel by establishing the concept of a canonical yet mutable OWL DL graph that allows data and service providers to describe their resources, to allow discovery servers to offer semantically rich search engines, to allow clients to discover and invoke those resources, and to allow providers to respond with semantically tagged data. SSWAP allows for a mix-and-match of terms from both new and legacy third-party ontologies in these graphs.
PMCID: PMC2761904  PMID: 19775460
16.  Towards Semantic e-Science for Traditional Chinese Medicine 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 3):S6.
Recent advances in Web and information technologies with the increasing decentralization of organizational structures have resulted in massive amounts of information resources and domain-specific services in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The massive volume and diversity of information and services available have made it difficult to achieve seamless and interoperable e-Science for knowledge-intensive disciplines like TCM. Therefore, information integration and service coordination are two major challenges in e-Science for TCM. We still lack sophisticated approaches to integrate scientific data and services for TCM e-Science.
We present a comprehensive approach to build dynamic and extendable e-Science applications for knowledge-intensive disciplines like TCM based on semantic and knowledge-based techniques. The semantic e-Science infrastructure for TCM supports large-scale database integration and service coordination in a virtual organization. We use domain ontologies to integrate TCM database resources and services in a semantic cyberspace and deliver a semantically superior experience including browsing, searching, querying and knowledge discovering to users. We have developed a collection of semantic-based toolkits to facilitate TCM scientists and researchers in information sharing and collaborative research.
Semantic and knowledge-based techniques are suitable to knowledge-intensive disciplines like TCM. It's possible to build on-demand e-Science system for TCM based on existing semantic and knowledge-based techniques. The presented approach in the paper integrates heterogeneous distributed TCM databases and services, and provides scientists with semantically superior experience to support collaborative research in TCM discipline.
PMCID: PMC1892103  PMID: 17493289
17.  An ontology-driven semantic mash-up of gene and biological pathway information: Application to the domain of nicotine dependence 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2008;41(5):752-765.
This paper illustrates how Semantic Web technologies (especially RDF, OWL, and SPARQL) can support information integration and make it easy to create semantic mashups (semantically integrated resources). In the context of understanding the genetic basis of nicotine dependence, we integrate gene and pathway information and show how three complex biological queries can be answered by the integrated knowledge base.
We use an ontology-driven approach to integrate two gene resources (Entrez Gene and HomoloGene) and three pathway resources (KEGG, Reactome and BioCyc), for five organisms, including humans. We created the Entrez Knowledge Model (EKoM), an information model in OWL for the gene resources, and integrated it with the extant BioPAX ontology designed for pathway resources. The integrated schema is populated with data from the pathway resources, publicly available in BioPAX-compatible format, and gene resources for which a population procedure was created. The SPARQL query language is used to formulate queries over the integrated knowledge base to answer the three biological queries.
Simple SPARQL queries could easily identify hub genes, i.e., those genes whose gene products participate in many pathways or interact with many other gene products. The identification of the genes expressed in the brain turned out to be more difficult, due to the lack of a common identification scheme for proteins.
Semantic Web technologies provide a valid framework for information integration in the life sciences. Ontology-driven integration represents a flexible, sustainable and extensible solution to the integration of large volumes of information. Additional resources, which enable the creation of mappings between information sources, are required to compensate for heterogeneity across namespaces.
Resource page
PMCID: PMC2766186  PMID: 18395495
Semantic Web; Semantic mashup; Nicotine dependence; Information integration; Ontologies
18.  Design and Development of a Linked Open Data-Based Health Information Representation and Visualization System: Potentials and Preliminary Evaluation 
JMIR Medical Informatics  2014;2(2):e31.
Healthcare organizations around the world are challenged by pressures to reduce cost, improve coordination and outcome, and provide more with less. This requires effective planning and evidence-based practice by generating important information from available data. Thus, flexible and user-friendly ways to represent, query, and visualize health data becomes increasingly important. International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) regularly publish vital data on priority health topics that can be utilized for public health policy and health service development. However, the data in most portals is displayed in either Excel or PDF formats, which makes information discovery and reuse difficult. Linked Open Data (LOD)—a new Semantic Web set of best practice of standards to publish and link heterogeneous data—can be applied to the representation and management of public level health data to alleviate such challenges. However, the technologies behind building LOD systems and their effectiveness for health data are yet to be assessed.
The objective of this study is to evaluate whether Linked Data technologies are potential options for health information representation, visualization, and retrieval systems development and to identify the available tools and methodologies to build Linked Data-based health information systems.
We used the Resource Description Framework (RDF) for data representation, Fuseki triple store for data storage, and Sgvizler for information visualization. Additionally, we integrated SPARQL query interface for interacting with the data. We primarily use the WHO health observatory dataset to test the system. All the data were represented using RDF and interlinked with other related datasets on the Web of Data using Silk—a link discovery framework for Web of Data. A preliminary usability assessment was conducted following the System Usability Scale (SUS) method.
We developed an LOD-based health information representation, querying, and visualization system by using Linked Data tools. We imported more than 20,000 HIV-related data elements on mortality, prevalence, incidence, and related variables, which are freely available from the WHO global health observatory database. Additionally, we automatically linked 5312 data elements from DBpedia, Bio2RDF, and LinkedCT using the Silk framework. The system users can retrieve and visualize health information according to their interests. For users who are not familiar with SPARQL queries, we integrated a Linked Data search engine interface to search and browse the data. We used the system to represent and store the data, facilitating flexible queries and different kinds of visualizations. The preliminary user evaluation score by public health data managers and users was 82 on the SUS usability measurement scale. The need to write queries in the interface was the main reported difficulty of LOD-based systems to the end user.
The system introduced in this article shows that current LOD technologies are a promising alternative to represent heterogeneous health data in a flexible and reusable manner so that they can serve intelligent queries, and ultimately support decision-making. However, the development of advanced text-based search engines is necessary to increase its usability especially for nontechnical users. Further research with large datasets is recommended in the future to unfold the potential of Linked Data and Semantic Web for future health information systems development.
PMCID: PMC4288106  PMID: 25601195
Linked Open Data; Semantic Web; ontology; health information systems; HIV; WHO; public health; public health informatics; visualization
19.  PREDOSE: A Semantic Web Platform for Drug Abuse Epidemiology using Social Media 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2013;46(6):10.1016/j.jbi.2013.07.007.
The role of social media in biomedical knowledge mining, including clinical, medical and healthcare informatics, prescription drug abuse epidemiology and drug pharmacology, has become increasingly significant in recent years. Social media offers opportunities for people to share opinions and experiences freely in online communities, which may contribute information beyond the knowledge of domain professionals. This paper describes the development of a novel Semantic Web platform called PREDOSE (PREscription Drug abuse Online Surveillance and Epidemiology), which is designed to facilitate the epidemiologic study of prescription (and related) drug abuse practices using social media. PREDOSE uses web forum posts and domain knowledge, modeled in a manually created Drug Abuse Ontology (DAO) (pronounced dow), to facilitate the extraction of semantic information from User Generated Content (UGC). A combination of lexical, pattern-based and semantics-based techniques is used together with the domain knowledge to extract fine-grained semantic information from UGC. In a previous study, PREDOSE was used to obtain the datasets from which new knowledge in drug abuse research was derived. Here, we report on various platform enhancements, including an updated DAO, new components for relationship and triple extraction, and tools for content analysis, trend detection and emerging patterns exploration, which enhance the capabilities of the PREDOSE platform. Given these enhancements, PREDOSE is now more equipped to impact drug abuse research by alleviating traditional labor-intensive content analysis tasks.
Using custom web crawlers that scrape UGC from publicly available web forums, PREDOSE first automates the collection of web-based social media content for subsequent semantic annotation. The annotation scheme is modeled in the DAO, and includes domain specific knowledge such as prescription (and related) drugs, methods of preparation, side effects, routes of administration, etc. The DAO is also used to help recognize three types of data, namely: 1) entities, 2) relationships and 3) triples. PREDOSE then uses a combination of lexical and semantic-based techniques to extract entities and relationships from the scraped content, and a top-down approach for triple extraction that uses patterns expressed in the DAO. In addition, PREDOSE uses publicly available lexicons to identify initial sentiment expressions in text, and then a probabilistic optimization algorithm (from related research) to extract the final sentiment expressions. Together, these techniques enable the capture of fine-grained semantic information from UGC, and querying, search, trend analysis and overall content analysis of social media related to prescription drug abuse. Moreover, extracted data are also made available to domain experts for the creation of training and test sets for use in evaluation and refinements in information extraction techniques.
A recent evaluation of the information extraction techniques applied in the PREDOSE platform indicates 85% precision and 72% recall in entity identification, on a manually created gold standard dataset. In another study, PREDOSE achieved 36% precision in relationship identification and 33% precision in triple extraction, through manual evaluation by domain experts. Given the complexity of the relationship and triple extraction tasks and the abstruse nature of social media texts, we interpret these as favorable initial results. Extracted semantic information is currently in use in an online discovery support system, by prescription drug abuse researchers at the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University.
A comprehensive platform for entity, relationship, triple and sentiment extraction from such abstruse texts has never been developed for drug abuse research. PREDOSE has already demonstrated the importance of mining social media by providing data from which new findings in drug abuse research were uncovered. Given the recent platform enhancements, including the refined DAO, components for relationship and triple extraction, and tools for content, trend and emerging pattern analysis, it is expected that PREDOSE will play a significant role in advancing drug abuse epidemiology in future.
PMCID: PMC3844051  PMID: 23892295
Entity Identification; Relationship Extraction; Triple Extraction; Sentiment Extraction; Semantic Web; Drug Abuse Ontology; Prescription Drug Abuse; Epidemiology
20.  The Application of the Open Pharmacological Concepts Triple Store (Open PHACTS) to Support Drug Discovery Research 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115460.
Integration of open access, curated, high-quality information from multiple disciplines in the Life and Biomedical Sciences provides a holistic understanding of the domain. Additionally, the effective linking of diverse data sources can unearth hidden relationships and guide potential research strategies. However, given the lack of consistency between descriptors and identifiers used in different resources and the absence of a simple mechanism to link them, gathering and combining relevant, comprehensive information from diverse databases remains a challenge. The Open Pharmacological Concepts Triple Store (Open PHACTS) is an Innovative Medicines Initiative project that uses semantic web technology approaches to enable scientists to easily access and process data from multiple sources to solve real-world drug discovery problems. The project draws together sources of publicly-available pharmacological, physicochemical and biomolecular data, represents it in a stable infrastructure and provides well-defined information exploration and retrieval methods. Here, we highlight the utility of this platform in conjunction with workflow tools to solve pharmacological research questions that require interoperability between target, compound, and pathway data. Use cases presented herein cover 1) the comprehensive identification of chemical matter for a dopamine receptor drug discovery program 2) the identification of compounds active against all targets in the Epidermal growth factor receptor (ErbB) signaling pathway that have a relevance to disease and 3) the evaluation of established targets in the Vitamin D metabolism pathway to aid novel Vitamin D analogue design. The example workflows presented illustrate how the Open PHACTS Discovery Platform can be used to exploit existing knowledge and generate new hypotheses in the process of drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC4270790  PMID: 25522365
21.  Biomedical semantics in the Semantic Web 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2011;2(Suppl 1):S1.
The Semantic Web offers an ideal platform for representing and linking biomedical information, which is a prerequisite for the development and application of analytical tools to address problems in data-intensive areas such as systems biology and translational medicine. As for any new paradigm, the adoption of the Semantic Web offers opportunities and poses questions and challenges to the life sciences scientific community: which technologies in the Semantic Web stack will be more beneficial for the life sciences? Is biomedical information too complex to benefit from simple interlinked representations? What are the implications of adopting a new paradigm for knowledge representation? What are the incentives for the adoption of the Semantic Web, and who are the facilitators? Is there going to be a Semantic Web revolution in the life sciences?
We report here a few reflections on these questions, following discussions at the SWAT4LS (Semantic Web Applications and Tools for Life Sciences) workshop series, of which this Journal of Biomedical Semantics special issue presents selected papers from the 2009 edition, held in Amsterdam on November 20th.
PMCID: PMC3105493  PMID: 21388570
22.  HyQue: evaluating hypotheses using Semantic Web technologies 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2011;2(Suppl 2):S3.
Key to the success of e-Science is the ability to computationally evaluate expert-composed hypotheses for validity against experimental data. Researchers face the challenge of collecting, evaluating and integrating large amounts of diverse information to compose and evaluate a hypothesis. Confronted with rapidly accumulating data, researchers currently do not have the software tools to undertake the required information integration tasks.
We present HyQue, a Semantic Web tool for querying scientific knowledge bases with the purpose of evaluating user submitted hypotheses. HyQue features a knowledge model to accommodate diverse hypotheses structured as events and represented using Semantic Web languages (RDF/OWL). Hypothesis validity is evaluated against experimental and literature-sourced evidence through a combination of SPARQL queries and evaluation rules. Inference over OWL ontologies (for type specifications, subclass assertions and parthood relations) and retrieval of facts stored as Bio2RDF linked data provide support for a given hypothesis. We evaluate hypotheses of varying levels of detail about the genetic network controlling galactose metabolism in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to demonstrate the feasibility of deploying such semantic computing tools over a growing body of structured knowledge in Bio2RDF.
HyQue is a query-based hypothesis evaluation system that can currently evaluate hypotheses about the galactose metabolism in S. cerevisiae. Hypotheses as well as the supporting or refuting data are represented in RDF and directly linked to one another allowing scientists to browse from data to hypothesis and vice versa. HyQue hypotheses and data are available at
PMCID: PMC3102892  PMID: 21624158
23.  Semantically Interoperable XML Data 
XML is ubiquitously used as an information exchange platform for web-based applications in healthcare, life sciences, and many other domains. Proliferating XML data are now managed through latest native XML database technologies. XML data sources conforming to common XML schemas could be shared and integrated with syntactic interoperability. Semantic interoperability can be achieved through semantic annotations of data models using common data elements linked to concepts from ontologies. In this paper, we present a framework and software system to support the development of semantic interoperable XML based data sources that can be shared through a Grid infrastructure. We also present our work on supporting semantic validated XML data through semantic annotations for XML Schema, semantic validation and semantic authoring of XML data. We demonstrate the use of the system for a biomedical database of medical image annotations and markups.
PMCID: PMC4185431  PMID: 25298789
Biomedical Data Management; XML Database; Data Integration; Semantic Interoperability
24.  Querying phenotype-genotype relationships on patient datasets using semantic web technology: the example of cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis 
Semantic Web technology can considerably catalyze translational genetics and genomics research in medicine, where the interchange of information between basic research and clinical levels becomes crucial. This exchange involves mapping abstract phenotype descriptions from research resources, such as knowledge databases and catalogs, to unstructured datasets produced through experimental methods and clinical practice. This is especially true for the construction of mutation databases. This paper presents a way of harmonizing abstract phenotype descriptions with patient data from clinical practice, and querying this dataset about relationships between phenotypes and genetic variants, at different levels of abstraction.
Due to the current availability of ontological and terminological resources that have already reached some consensus in biomedicine, a reuse-based ontology engineering approach was followed. The proposed approach uses the Ontology Web Language (OWL) to represent the phenotype ontology and the patient model, the Semantic Web Rule Language (SWRL) to bridge the gap between phenotype descriptions and clinical data, and the Semantic Query Web Rule Language (SQWRL) to query relevant phenotype-genotype bidirectional relationships. The work tests the use of semantic web technology in the biomedical research domain named cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX), using a real dataset and ontologies.
A framework to query relevant phenotype-genotype bidirectional relationships is provided. Phenotype descriptions and patient data were harmonized by defining 28 Horn-like rules in terms of the OWL concepts. In total, 24 patterns of SWQRL queries were designed following the initial list of competency questions. As the approach is based on OWL, the semantic of the framework adapts the standard logical model of an open world assumption.
This work demonstrates how semantic web technologies can be used to support flexible representation and computational inference mechanisms required to query patient datasets at different levels of abstraction. The open world assumption is especially good for describing only partially known phenotype-genotype relationships, in a way that is easily extensible. In future, this type of approach could offer researchers a valuable resource to infer new data from patient data for statistical analysis in translational research. In conclusion, phenotype description formalization and mapping to clinical data are two key elements for interchanging knowledge between basic and clinical research.
PMCID: PMC3444309  PMID: 22849591
25.  semCDI: A Query Formulation for Semantic Data Integration in caBIG 
To develop mechanisms to formulate queries over the semantic representation of cancer-related data services available through the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG).
The semCDI query formulation uses a view of caBIG semantic concepts, metadata, and data as an ontology, and defines a methodology to specify queries using the SPARQL query language, extended with Horn rules. semCDI enables the joining of data that represent different concepts through associations modeled as object properties, and the merging of data representing the same concept in different sources through Common Data Elements (CDE) modeled as datatype properties, using Horn rules to specify additional semantics indicating conditions for merging data.
In order to validate this formulation, a prototype has been constructed, and two queries have been executed against currently available caBIG data services.
The semCDI query formulation uses the rich semantic metadata available in caBIG to build queries and integrate data from multiple sources. Its promise will be further enhanced as more data services are registered in caBIG, and as more linkages can be achieved between the knowledge contained within caBIG's NCI Thesaurus and the data contained in the Data Services.
semCDI provides a formulation for the creation of queries on the semantic representation of caBIG. This constitutes the foundation to build a semantic data integration system for more efficient and effective querying and exploratory searching of cancer-related data.
PMCID: PMC2442262  PMID: 18436897

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