EOL computable data challenge

In 2012, EOL held a Computable Data Challenge, a competitive grant program which funded two innovative biodiversity data projects. The funded proposals will help answer cross-cutting scientific questions, enhance computability of data served by EOL.

Washington, DC - July 24, 2012 - The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is pleased to announce two winners in its Computable Data Challenge. The Challenge was initiated in April 2012 and invited research project ideas that would use EOL, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), to answer questions in biology through scientific data analysis. Projects were also encouraged to enhance the computability of data served by EOL.

The winners, Dr. Roderic D.M. Page and The Alexandria Archive Institute (AAI), proposed similar approaches to EOL’s challenge. Both entries identified data sources that could be linked together with EOL’s help to answer interesting scientific questions. Other entries for the challenge proposed various methods of extracting computable data from unstructured text in both EOL and BHL, an activity EOL is also eager to support.

The winning BioNames project, submitted by Page, aims to create a ‘dashboard’ summary of taxonomic and evolutionary information for each organism. The tool will use classification information from EOL, names from the Index of Organism Names (ION), phylogenetic information from Phylota, and primary bibliographic data from multiple sources, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library, CrossRef, and Mendeley. By visualizing patterns in the data, BioNames will allow a biologist to quickly assess general temporal and taxonomic patterns in the availability of genetic, phylogenetic, and bibliographic information.

BioNames will help EOL close current gaps so that the entire body of taxonomic knowledge becomes a single interwoven web of names, citations, publications and data freely available to the wider biological community.

The other winning project, ‘Exploring Biogeography of Early Domestic Animals using Linked Open Data’ was proposed by a team from The Alexandria Archive Institute including Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Eric Kansa, and Benjamin Arbuckle of Baylor University. It will integrate dozens of archaeological datasets using EOL taxon pages in order to study the origins of animal domestication in the Near East region of Anatolia (now Turkey). The team and other experts from the Open Context project and the Anatolia Zooarchaeology Working Group will use these data to better understand when and why domestication of sheep, goats, cattle and pigs first occurred, and the impact this had on agro-pastoral economies in ancient times.

EOL enables Open Context to link these data regardless of recording terminologies used in individual datasets. This will be the first study of this topic that makes use of existing Linked Open Data resources, such as geographic names, and creates new, high-quality Linked Open Data for zoology and archaeology. It will foster innovative follow-up research and spark greater analytical transparency and collaboration in the research community.

“We were thrilled with the high quality of submissions we received from around the world,” said Dr. Cyndy Parr, Director of EOL’s Species Pages Group. “While it was difficult to select just two to fund, the winners demonstrated a desire to apply 'big data' methods using EOL across fields of biology, informatics, and archaeology. We are excited to support projects that will help us understand biodiversity in new ways.”

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) operates as an ongoing collaboration of individuals and organizations who share the vision to provide global access to knowledge about life on Earth. EOL is supported by founding sponsors the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional support comes from EOL member institutions and donations from around the world.