Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Information overload in the era of 'big data'

Date:
August 20, 2012
Source:
American Journal of Botany
Summary:
The ability of botanists and other scientists to generate data quickly and cheaply is surpassing their ability to access and analyze it. Scientists facing too much information rely on computers to search large data sets for patterns that are beyond the capability of humans to recognize. New tools called ontologies provide the rules computers need to transform information into knowledge, by attaching meaning to data, thereby making those data more retrievable and understandable.

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.

When data from many divergent sources, such as data about some specific plant organ, are associated or "tagged" with particular terms from a single ontology or set of interrelated ontologies, the data become easier to find, and computers can use the logical relationships in the ontologies to correctly combine the information from the different databases. Moreover, computers can also use ontologies to aggregate data associated with the different subclasses or parts of entities.

For example, suppose a researcher is searching online for all examples of gene expression in a leaf. Any botanist performing this search would include experiments that described gene expression in petioles and midribs or in a frond. However, a search engine would not know that it needs to include these terms in its search -- unless it was told that a frond is a type of leaf, and that every petiole and every midrib are parts of some leaf. It is this information that ontologies provide.

The article in the American Journal of Botany by Walls and colleagues describes what ontologies are, why they are relevant to plant science, and some of the basic principles of ontology development. It includes an overview of the ontologies that are relevant to botany, with a more detailed description of the PO and the challenges of building an ontology that covers all green plants. The article also describes four keys areas of plant science that could benefit from the use of ontologies: (1) comparative genetics, genomics, phenomics, and development; (2) taxonomy and systematics; (3) semantic applications; and (4) education. Although most of the examples in this article are drawn from plant science, the principles could apply to any group of organisms, and the article should be of interest to zoologists as well.

As genomic and phenomic data become available for more species, many different research groups are embarking on the annotation of their data and images with ontology terms. At the same time, cross-species queries are becoming more common, causing more researchers in plant science to turn to ontologies. Ontology developers are working with the scientists who generate data to make sure ontologies accurately reflect current science, and with database developers and publishers to find ways to make it easier for scientist to associate their data with ontologies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Journal of Botany. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. L. Walls, B. Athreya, L. Cooper, J. Elser, M. A. Gandolfo, P. Jaiswal, C. J. Mungall, J. Preece, S. Rensing, B. Smith, D. W. Stevenson. Ontologies as integrative tools for plant science. American Journal of Botany, 2012; 99 (8): 1263 DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1200222

Cite This Page:

American Journal of Botany. "Information overload in the era of 'big data'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820161058.htm>.
American Journal of Botany. (2012, August 20). Information overload in the era of 'big data'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820161058.htm
American Journal of Botany. "Information overload in the era of 'big data'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820161058.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Teen's Phone Ignites Under Her Pillow; How Real Is The Risk?

Teen's Phone Ignites Under Her Pillow; How Real Is The Risk?

Newsy (July 28, 2014) A Texas teen's Samsung phone apparently ignited while she slept, but what was the real problem here? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Google's Next Frontier: The Human Body

Newsy (July 27, 2014) Google is collecting genetic and molecular information to paint a picture of the perfectly healthy human. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cellphone Unlocking Bill Clears U.S. House, Heads to Obama

Cellphone Unlocking Bill Clears U.S. House, Heads to Obama

Reuters - US Online Video (July 27, 2014) Congress gets rid of pesky law that made it illegal to "unlock" mobile phones without permission, giving consumers the option to use the same phone on a competitor's wireless network. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Congress OKs Unlocking Phones From Carriers

Congress OKs Unlocking Phones From Carriers

Newsy (July 26, 2014) A bill legalizing "unlocking," or untethering a phone from its default wireless carrier, has passed Congress and is expected to be signed into law. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins