6 June 2011. Researchers from the Ontological Engineering Group (OEG) at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid's Facultad de Informática are participating, together with other Spanish, English, Polish and Dutch experts, in the European Wf4Ever project, which applies the social networking principle to scientific research.
The huge data output of many scientific disciplines nowadays calls for standardized approaches to the preservation of data, experimental methods and metadata associated with the scientific discovery process. These approaches are usually packaged in what are called scientific workflows and are the most important components of data-intensive science.
Wf4Ever develops a software architecture and reference implementation for the preservation and efficient retrieval and reuse of these scientific workflows, the results of workflow executions and the provenance of the data used.
First, the study focuses on what, within the research project, have been termed research objects. Second, Wf4Ever addresses the development of tools that provide support for the access, manipulation, sharing, reuse and evolution of these research objects. Finally, Wf4Ever contributes to supporting the integral management of the workflow life cycle and associated materials.
Wf4Ever is implemented on one of the most commonly used scientific workflow support platforms (myExperiment). This platform is extended with functions related to research object management and preservation, with support for collaboration and research object sharing and mechanisms for assuring workflow integrity maintenance and authenticity.
Pioneering applications in astronomy and genomics
Wf4Ever will apply all these scientific and technological results in the context of two scientific domains characterized by a work method disposed to the use of scientific workflows.
One of these fields is astronomy. Astronomy is discipline that has a wealth of data and metadata about the firmament, as well as data analysis tools. This discipline is starting to explore the use of workflows to exploit these data more efficiently. Wf4Ever is to develop several workflows in this discipline, focused on the study of galaxies. These workflows will use increasingly more sophisticated information provided by the new astronomical instruments developed as part of the SDSS, ALMA and the future SKA projects.
The second field of application of the Wf4Ever results is genomics, a discipline that requires the access and integration of several metadata-rich data formats. The Wf4Ever tools will be used to preserve and reproduce workflows that support studies of human diseases, demonstrating the reuse of knowledge across disease studies.
Participation of OEG
The Ontological Engineering Group at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid's Facultad de Informática is leading a workpackage on workflow evolution, sharing and collaboration in the Wf4Ever project. Its main purpose is to provide suitable resources for maximizing the participation and reuse of the preserved research objects, while supporting their evolution and versioning, and facilitating collaboration among scientists. This will overcome the limited collaborative support for workflow sharing and reuse offered by most current workflow management systems and repositories.
To achieve this goal, the OEG will exploit the social characteristics emerging from scientific social networks, adding formal models, while taking into account the evolution of research objects.
Seventh Framework Programme Research
Apart from the OEG, the Wf4Ever research team is partnered by Spain's iSOCO, the University of Manchester's School of Computer Science, the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology, Poland's Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), and Leiden University Medical Centre's Centre of Human and Clinical Genetics in the Netherlands.
Wf4Ever is a European Commission Seventh Framework Programme that kicked off in December last year and is scheduled for completion in December 2013. It has a budget of 3.86 million euros.
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