Bioschemas Summer Progress and InterMine

A couple of weeks ago we took part in the May ELIXIR Bioschemas meeting, along with representatives from Google, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and other participating organizations from the UK and beyond.

To give some background, Bioschemas is based on schema.org, an initiative to produce schemas that can be directly embedded in websites to give more structure to data. Search engines can understand this more easily than simple text, and it’s the stuff that powers a proportion of Google snippets (those box-outs you see on Google search results when you search for something popular). For example, let’s suppose I wanted to tell search engines more about my Jazz event. This is what I would embed in the webpage for the event.

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "Event",
  "name": "Hot Digits Jazz Afternoons",
  "startDate": "2017-04-24T14:30-17:00",
  "location": {
    "@type": "Place",
    "name": "Hot Digits",
    "address": {
      "@type": "PostalAddress",
      "streetAddress": "444 Trumpington St",
      "addressLocality": "Cambridge",
      "postalCode": "CB2 1QA",
      "addressCountry": "UK"
    }
  },
  "image": "http://www.example.com/event_image/12345",
  "description": "Join us for an afternoon of Jazz with Tom Colborn (aka 'Delta Tom').",
  "performer": {
    "@type": "PerformingGroup",
    "name": "Tom Colborn"
  }
}

Bioschemas wants to do the same but for biological information (like genes, proteins, samples, etc.). So in InterMine, for the CHEY_BACSU protein report page in SynBioMine we might have something like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context":"http://schema.org",
  "@type":"BiologicalEntity",
  "biologicalType":"protein",
  "name":"CHEY_BACSU",
  "url":"http://beta.synbiomine.org/synbiomine/report.do?id=111921899",
  "about":"Integrated InterMine information for Protein CHEY_BACSU",
  "keywords":"protein, CHEY_BACSU",
    "inDataset": {
      "@type":"Dataset",
      "url":"http://beta.synbiomine.org/synbiomine/release-5"
    },
  "crossReference": {
    "@type":"Thing",
    "url":"http://beta.synbiomine.org/synbiomine/report.do?id=6010402"
  },
  "taxon":"https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Info&id=224308&lvl=3&lin=f&keep=1&srchmode=1&unlock",
  "taxon":"http://www.uniprot.org/taxonomy/224308"
  "sequence":"MAHRILIVDDAAFMRMMIKDILVKNGFEVVAEAENGAQAVEKYKEHSPDLVTMDITMPEM
 DGITALKEIKQIDAQARIIMCSAMGQQSMVIDAIQAGAKDFIVKPFQADRVLEAINKTLN",
  "datePublished":"2017-05-26",
  "citation": {
    "@type":"CreativeWork",
    "name":"UniProt",
    "url":"http://www.uniprot.org"
  },
  "citation": {
    "@type":"CreativeWork",
    "name":"Ecocyc",
    "url":"http://ecocyc.org"
  },
}

A search engine (or a specialized life sciences search tool) can then crawl and aggregate the structures embedded in a wide range of life sciences websites (particular those with lots of small sites such as biological samples in biobanks). The goal is to make it considerably easier for scientists to find information relevant to their research without having to visit lots of sites individually.

The job of Bioschemas is to go through the existing schema.org schemas and decide what existing stuff we can use (such as Dataset) and what we need to propose as new schemas (such as BiologicalEntity). schema.org schemas are big bags of attributes with no cardinality constraints as they need to satisfy a lot of different use cases, so another job of Bioschemas is to recommend which attributes to use and at what cardinality, both for data in general (DataSet, for example) and for specific life sciences entities, such as proteins and biological samples.

We made some great progress at this meeting and the results, such as draft schemas specifications, are going up on the Bioschemas groups page. The next phase is for specific resources, such as Uniprot and the Protein Data Bank in Europe to try out these schemas on real data and catch the obvious problems so that we can refine the specifications further. At InterMine we’ve also done some extremely prototype work on testing these ideas and we’ll continue to participate enthusiastically, particularly as this is an important component of our coming work to make InterMine-hosted data more Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reuseable.

Bioschemas work is at an early and draft stage, but it’s an open community that welcomes anybody who wants to join in the effort. You can find more details on how to participate in our mailing list and issue tracker at Bioschemas.

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Published by

justincc

Software engineer at InterMine fascinated by life sciences and semantic data and knowledge management. Previously virtual worlds (with Intel and the US Govt), and even more previously IBM.