Project Overview

The Biofinity Project focuses on the development of a software framework that supports biodiversity and genomics research by relating data of participating labs with those of larger, public databases. It also gives users access to data search, browsing, and analysis tools that are fully integrated with the interface. Our efforts have resulted in the creation of a single-source, web-enabled interface to all aspects of the framework that allows users to interact with data from diverse sources as if they were from a single provider. The unification of many disparate, existing data sources provides community support for independent research activities while encouraging data sharing and collaboration. The Biofinity Project includes data management workflows that allow users to easily manipulate data in a standard format, allowing it to be readily published and shared as part of the data sets that are federated by the system. The workflows not only provide data management functionality, but also give users access to analytical tools through the same common web-enabled data set. Users can run standard bioinformatics tools on both private and public data sets, benefiting from the data integration components of the system. This allows users access to data sets significantly larger than what could be generally maintained in a local lab environment.

Considerable progress has been made in building the software framework and identifying partners to contribute data sets for integration. The most recent major update provides users with management tools for interacting with the data, and includes the following high-level features:

  • A data management service called My Labs, which allows users to upload existing databases into the framework for management, archiving, and interaction. Data are maintained in a secure, private store with access control management, allowing only specific users the ability to access the data. The My Labs feature allows researchers in independent labs to utilize the integrated data and work with their own private data from a single interface, taking the burden of data management off researchers.
  • Classification tools for taxonomists that are integrated into the vast species database provided by The Biofinity Project. Using these tools, taxonomists can create, manage and manipulate classifications that then can be applied to specimen data in My Labs.
  • Mobile applications for field researchers. With The Biofinity Project Mobile, field users can easily access My Labs data from their iPhone, uploading and geo-coding specimen data and images while still in the field. Data are available in My Labs immediately for researchers to access in the lab.
  • Spatial workflow extensions that allow researchers to perform spatial analysis on data in public and My Labs databases. The Biofinity Project software framework incorporates spatial analysis functionality like occurrence distribution, cluster analysis, as well as several environmental data sets. The Biofinity Project web application exposes this functionality through integration with the Google Maps technology, allowing users to transparently interact with robust GIS technologies.

Meanwhile, we are presently developing other features to continue to improve and broaden the capabilities of the Biofinity Project, including an intelligent user interface to support collaborative research and to facilitate more effective data processing and dissemination. Also in progress is an ontological representation of the data to help federate overlapping databases and allow for automated reasoning about the data.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0743783. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.