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1.  Design preferences and cognitive styles: experimentation by automated website synthesis 
Background
This article aims to demonstrate computational synthesis of Web-based experiments in undertaking experimentation on relationships among the participants' design preference, rationale, and cognitive test performance. The exemplified experiments were computationally synthesised, including the websites as materials, experiment protocols as methods, and cognitive tests as protocol modules. This work also exemplifies the use of a website synthesiser as an essential instrument enabling the participants to explore different possible designs, which were generated on the fly, before selection of preferred designs.
Methods
The participants were given interactive tree and table generators so that they could explore some different ways of presenting causality information in tables and trees as the visualisation formats. The participants gave their preference ratings for the available designs, as well as their rationale (criteria) for their design decisions. The participants were also asked to take four cognitive tests, which focus on the aspects of visualisation and analogy-making. The relationships among preference ratings, rationale, and the results of cognitive tests were analysed by conservative non-parametric statistics including Wilcoxon test, Krustal-Wallis test, and Kendall correlation.
Results
In the test, 41 of the total 64 participants preferred graphical (tree-form) to tabular presentation. Despite the popular preference for graphical presentation, the given tabular presentation was generally rated to be easier than graphical presentation to interpret, especially by those who were scored lower in the visualization and analogy-making tests.
Conclusions
This piece of evidence helps generate a hypothesis that design preferences are related to specific cognitive abilities. Without the use of computational synthesis, the experiment setup and scientific results would be impractical to obtain.
doi:10.1186/1759-4499-4-2
PMCID: PMC3386886  PMID: 22748000
2.  P2P proteomics -- data sharing for enhanced protein identification 
Background
In order to tackle the important and challenging problem in proteomics of identifying known and new protein sequences using high-throughput methods, we propose a data-sharing platform that uses fully distributed P2P technologies to share specifications of peer-interaction protocols and service components. By using such a platform, information to be searched is no longer centralised in a few repositories but gathered from experiments in peer proteomics laboratories, which can subsequently be searched by fellow researchers.
Methods
The system distributively runs a data-sharing protocol specified in the Lightweight Communication Calculus underlying the system through which researchers interact via message passing. For this, researchers interact with the system through particular components that link to database querying systems based on BLAST and/or OMSSA and GUI-based visualisation environments. We have tested the proposed platform with data drawn from preexisting MS/MS data reservoirs from the 2006 ABRF (Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities) test sample, which was extensively tested during the ABRF Proteomics Standards Research Group 2006 worldwide survey. In particular we have taken the data available from a subset of proteomics laboratories of Spain's National Institute for Proteomics, ProteoRed, a network for the coordination, integration and development of the Spanish proteomics facilities.
Results and Discussion
We performed queries against nine databases including seven ProteoRed proteomics laboratories, the NCBI Swiss-Prot database and the local database of the CSIC/UAB Proteomics Laboratory. A detailed analysis of the results indicated the presence of a protein that was supported by other NCBI matches and highly scored matches in several proteomics labs. The analysis clearly indicated that the protein was a relatively high concentrated contaminant that could be present in the ABRF sample. This fact is evident from the information that could be derived from the proposed P2P proteomics system, however it is not straightforward to arrive to the same conclusion by conventional means as it is difficult to discard organic contamination of samples. The actual presence of this contaminant was only stated after the ABRF study of all the identifications reported by the laboratories.
doi:10.1186/1759-4499-4-1
PMCID: PMC3298698  PMID: 22293032
3.  OpenKnowledge for peer-to-peer experimentation in protein identification by MS/MS 
Background
Traditional scientific workflow platforms usually run individual experiments with little evaluation and analysis of performance as required by automated experimentation in which scientists are being allowed to access numerous applicable workflows rather than being committed to a single one. Experimental protocols and data under a peer-to-peer environment could potentially be shared freely without any single point of authority to dictate how experiments should be run. In such environment it is necessary to have mechanisms by which each individual scientist (peer) can assess, locally, how he or she wants to be involved with others in experiments. This study aims to implement and demonstrate simple peer ranking under the OpenKnowledge peer-to-peer infrastructure by both simulated and real-world bioinformatics experiments involving multi-agent interactions.
Methods
A simulated experiment environment with a peer ranking capability was specified by the Lightweight Coordination Calculus (LCC) and automatically executed under the OpenKnowledge infrastructure. The peers such as MS/MS protein identification services (including web-enabled and independent programs) were made accessible as OpenKnowledge Components (OKCs) for automated execution as peers in the experiments. The performance of the peers in these automated experiments was monitored and evaluated by simple peer ranking algorithms.
Results
Peer ranking experiments with simulated peers exhibited characteristic behaviours, e.g., power law effect (a few dominant peers dominate), similar to that observed in the traditional Web. Real-world experiments were run using an interaction model in LCC involving two different types of MS/MS protein identification peers, viz., peptide fragment fingerprinting (PFF) and de novo sequencing with another peer ranking algorithm simply based on counting the successful and failed runs. This study demonstrated a novel integration and useful evaluation of specific proteomic peers and found MASCOT to be a dominant peer as judged by peer ranking.
Conclusion
The simulated and real-world experiments in the present study demonstrated that the OpenKnowledge infrastructure with peer ranking capability can serve as an evaluative environment for automated experimentation.
doi:10.1186/1759-4499-3-3
PMCID: PMC3377912  PMID: 22192521
4.  The benefits of integrated systems for managing both samples and experimental data: An opportunity for labs in universities and government research institutions to lead the way 
Currently most biomedical labs in universities and government funded research institutions use paper lab notebooks for recording experimental data and spreadsheets for managing sample data. One consequence is that sample management and documenting experiments are viewed as separate and distinct activities, notwithstanding that samples and aliquots are an integral part of a majority of the experiments carried out by these labs.
Various drivers are pushing labs towards integrated management of sample data and experimental data. These include the ever increasing amounts of both kinds of data, the increasing adoption of online collaborative tools, changing expectations about online communication, and the increasing affordability of electronic lab notebooks and sample management software. There is now an opportunity for smaller labs, which have been slow to move from paper to electronic record keeping, to leapfrog better resourced commercial labs and lead the way in adopting the new generation of tools which permit integrated management of samples and experimental data and a range of tangible benefits to conducting research, including:
1. Fewer lost and mislabelled samples
2. Clearer visualization of relationships between samples and experiments
3. Reduction of experimental error
4. More effective search
5. Productivity gains
6. More efficient use of freezers, leading to cost reduction and enhanced sustainability
7. Improved archiving and enhanced memory at the lab and institutional levels
doi:10.1186/1759-4499-3-2
PMCID: PMC3146905  PMID: 21707999
5.  Automated experimentation in ecological networks 
Background
In ecological networks, natural communities are studied from a complex systems perspective by representing interactions among species within them in the form of a graph, which is in turn analysed using mathematical tools. Topological features encountered in complex networks have been proved to provide the systems they represent with interesting attributes such as robustness and stability, which in ecological systems translates into the ability of communities to resist perturbations of different kinds. A focus of research in community ecology is on understanding the mechanisms by which these complex networks of interactions among species in a community arise. We employ an agent-based approach to model ecological processes operating at the species' interaction level for the study of the emergence of organisation in ecological networks.
Results
We have designed protocols of interaction among agents in a multi-agent system based on ecological processes occurring at the interaction level between species in plant-animal mutualistic communities. Interaction models for agents coordination thus engineered facilitate the emergence of network features such as those found in ecological networks of interacting species, in our artificial societies of agents.
Conclusions
Agent based models developed in this way facilitate the automation of the design an execution of simulation experiments that allow for the exploration of diverse behavioural mechanisms believed to be responsible for community organisation in ecological communities. This automated way of conducting experiments empowers the study of ecological networks by exploiting the expressive power of interaction models specification in agent systems.
doi:10.1186/1759-4499-3-1
PMCID: PMC3117761  PMID: 21554669

Results 1-5 (5)