Open Access News

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

A wiki for biomedical data

Jim Giles, Key biology databases go wiki, Nature, February 15, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

Barend Monsís first objective would be ambitious enough for most people: to meld some of the most important biomedical databases into a single information resource. But thatís just the beginning. Mons, a bioinformatician at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, also wants to apply the Wikipedia philosophy. Heís inviting the whole research community to help update a vast store of interlinked data. If he and his colleagues can pull it off ó and even the projectís advocates are not sure they can ó they could transform the databases that are central to the work of many life scientists.

A test version of the project, provisionally dubbed Wiki for Professionals, is due to launch in the next month. It already contains data from key sources, such as protein information from Swiss- Prot and gene descriptions from Gene Ontology. Over the past year, Monsís team has woven together these and other archives to create what, from a userís point of view, seems to be a single database....

But the next stage is the really radical bit. Biomedical research produces hundreds of thousands of papers a year, overwhelming database curators. To clear this bottleneck, Mons and his colleagues are allowing anyone to edit the entries, modifying and adding text and links as new work is published....

A final function, and the one that most excites Mons, is the availability of text-mining software....

[B]asic access will be free. Revenue will be generated by charging drug firms and other users for premium services, such as the option to run a private version of the system incorporating proprietary data....