Thursday, 15 May 2008

Health Care and life sciences data mashup using Web 2.0/3.0

Cheung K-H et al., 'HCLS 2.0/3.0: Health care and life sciences data mashup using Web 2.0/3.0', J. Biomed. Inform. (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2008.04.001

In the above article, Cheung et al. attempt to 'mashup' or combine two independent sets of data from various sources on the internet. They do so using various web services which automatically combine the data sets based on some programmed rules. They did this in order to increase the productivity and workflow of a research study involving a spotted microarray. They begin with a description of the current state of the web - Web 2.0. and describe the various internet tools used to perform the data mashup. They then apply their principles to real data and produce an interesting heat map based on cancer rates in the States and water pollution. The article then goes on to describe a Semantic Web (or Web 3.0), and summarises how it is applied now to Heath care and life sciences (HCLS) data by describing a typical scenario which demonstrates the benefits that Semantics can provide.

Cheung et al. have used inexpensive, publicly-available tools to combine interesting sets of data to provide a new visual form of each set. Whereas this is quite an achievement in itself, I feel it's worth noting that the point here was not so much about the data that this new visual map displays, but that such a map is possible with today's technology and resources. The conclusion of Cheung et al. supports this by explaining how simple data mashups can be, and that programming experience is not at all necessary. This will be important in the future as it will become easier for people to get the specific data they need and filter out the rest.

My project title is focused on metadata - the data about data. The semantic markup in web applications is metadata, and this article has demonstrated the use of Semantics in web applications. We have seen how this metadata will facilitate searches in the future and improve the internet experience for the user. But how difficult will the incorporation of Semantics to today's Web 2.0 applications be? It seems the schemes in place to provide these Semantics are drawn-out and complicated. How will this affect the transition to Web 3.0?

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