Bioinformatics embraces Semantic Web technologies

RDF for molecular biology

EMBL-EBI has launched a new Resource Description Framework (RDF) platform. The new platform, built in response to input from industry, provides access to bioinformatics resources that support Semantic Web technologies.

RDF, a standard for web-based data interchange, underlies the Semantic Web. It provides profound links between related but differently structured information by giving unique names to specific relationships between things. RDF makes it possible to accurately represent the diversity of information produced in life science experiments. The result is a more meaningful and intuitive sharing of data – in this case about molecules – amongst different applications. Users can make a single query to retrieve all relevant data from many different sources.

EMBL-EBI hosts a comprehensive range of freely available molecular databases. Increasingly, these public resources are committing to providing and supporting RDF versions of their data. The RDF platform helps developers get to grips with the technology and the data, supporting further integration of applications. Over time, the goal is to create a seamless experience for scientists exploring the scientific literature and the data that supports it, spanning genes, expression, proteins, pathways, networks and many other types.

“Over the next couple of years we will be studying the way researchers in different sectors use the platform,” says EMBL-EBI Associate Director Ewan Birney. “That knowledge will shape the role that RDF technologies will play in the development of our data resources, and we will certainly be paying close attention to the feedback we receive from all users.” 

The RDF platform currently hosts data from six databases (UniProt, ChEMBL, Expression Atlas, Reactome, BioSamples and BioModels) and is available on the EMBL-EBI website: https://www.ebi.ac.uk/rdf/