News at the University of New Brunswick

UNB Saint John research chair in Canada-wide effort to develop semantic infrastructure for knowledge discovery in biomedicine

Author: Communications

Posted on Apr 30, 2010

Category: UNB Saint John

Even with huge investments in infrastructure for biomedical research, a key challenge is the time it takes to find the right data and identify how to analyze it. In many ways, the web world is becoming more cluttered and it can be difficult to isolate that elusive, yet critical, piece of information that can unlock an important discovery. Advanced technologies for describing the meaning of published data are set to revolutionize the way in which research is carried out.

Chris Baker, Innovatia Research Chair at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, and a team of Canadian researchers have received funding for a project that could revolutionize the way biomedical researchers share and access information.

Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network, CANARIE, has funded the Canadian Bioinformatics Resources As Semantic Services project (C-BRASS) with $927,000 to develop better IT resources for biomedical researchers. The project will deploy semantic technologies nationwide to help scientists find online databases and web services and to run in-silico analyses on an integrated intelligent network. Courses will be established to train highly-qualified Canadian personnel in these new Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies. To the layperson, semantic technologies are those that help identify meanings and contexts of words so that knowledge can be exchanged quickly and easily by humans and machines alike. These technologies, along with other new media subject areas are part of a new field of study known as web science.

“As these new technologies become standardized the importance of face-to-face communication and training for users cannot be underestimated,” said Chris Baker. “A common understanding of how these standards evolve will allow us to build an efficient national network so that research can have greater impact and faster.” C-BRASS will allow machines to make many of the complex decisions about where and how to retrieve and analyze data, leaving the researcher free to focus on what the results mean and how this new knowledge can be used to improve the health of Canadians.

The project is a multi-centre initiative between the University of British Columbia, Carleton University and UNB.

“On a daily basis it becomes more difficult for biomedical scientists to find newly published information required to further their biomedical research and data analysis,” said Dr. Baker. “This can have a real impact in advancing health research in the country.”

“We are limited by our ability to access the algorithms and the data we need on for in-silico research. The C-BRASS funding and SADI framework come at a critical time and we look forward to sharing these innovations with bioinformatics resource providers and the life science community at large.”

Guy Bujold, a strategic advisor with CANARIE, says the exciting part about the C-BRASS project is that it will allow researcher to be researchers, rather than IT experts expected to figure out complicated technical issues.

“C-BRASS will enable researchers to focus on their own important discoveries and innovation and that's something CANARIE is absolutely committed to supporting," said Mr. Bujold.

C-BRASS is part of CANARIE's flagship Network-Enabled Platform (NEP) Program, which to-date has awarded $27 million in funding to almost 20 IT research projects across the country. The NEP Program funds the development of tools and software that help researchers, in a wide range of disciplines, to fully exploit the massive amounts of data and research that flow along the CANARIE Network.


Natalie Montgomery, Communication Officer (506) 453-4990