Semantically Yours

by Gabrielle DeMarco on October 1, 2009

Web scientists at Rensselaer believe that a revolution in the age-old scientific process is at our fingertips.

Interdisciplinary research has become a prerequisite to even be considered for most major research funding. But, despite the increased collaboration across disciplines, data remains highly specialized and inaccessible. This keeps the scientific process moving at a crawl. To build on the data of another scientist, the original results often need to be painstakingly recreated before the work of answering any new questions can even begin. This process also prevents anyone without a Ph.D. from getting involved in the real scientific process.

Our triad of web gurus in the Tetherless World Research Constellation are looking to move the discoveries in the laboratory to the World Wide Web. This triad includes data scientist Peter Fox, semantic ontology expert Deborah McGuiness, and Semantic Web creator James Hendler.

To quickly advance the processes of science, the scientists are creating platforms for massive scientific collaboration on the Web. Their technologies would be based in the Semantic Web, tagging data in thousands of ways and making each piece of data a million times more useful to a computer than the static numbers-on-the-screen of today’s scientific datasets. This would allow the computer to interpret data like never before, allowing the computer to compile millions of datasets from scientists around the world.

Their research could significantly increase access to scientific data and the scientific process by opening the opportunity for discovery up to scientists, policy makers, teachers, and even the general public. This could speed the rate of discovery on topics that consistently cross disciplines such as climate change and the causes of cancer. If you click on the graphic above, you can see all the different types of data and disciplines that intersect during a search for information on the Earth’s atmosphere.

More information can be found in a story that I wrote on the research here.