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Blogs

Jaiswal lab receives funding for Plant Reactome

Oregon State University has been named a partner on a grant that aims to further the understanding of the molecular interactions and genes in crops that include rice and corn.

Information Overload in the Era of “Big Data”

Source: American Journal of Botany | Aug, 20, 2012

New search tools give scientists better ways of managing data

Botany is plagued by the same problem as the rest of science and society: our ability to generate data quickly and cheaply is surpassing our ability to access and analyze it. In this age of big data, scientists facing too much information rely on computers to search large data sets for patterns that are beyond the capability of humans to recognize—but computers can only interpret data based on the strict set of rules in their programming.

New tools called ontologies provide the rules computers need to transform information into knowledge, by attaching meaning to data, thereby making those data retrievable by computers and more understandable to human beings. Ontology, from the Greek word for the study of being or existence, traditionally falls within the purview of philosophy, but the term is now used by computer and information scientists to describe a strategy for representing knowledge in a consistent fashion. An ontology in this contemporary sense is a description of the types of entities within a given domain and the relationships among them.

A new article in this month’s American Journal of Botany by Ramona Walls (New York Botanical Garden) and colleagues describes how scientists build ontologies such as the Plant Ontology (PO) and how these tools can transform plant science by facilitating new ways of gathering and exploring data (http://www.amjbot.org/content/99/8/1263.full).