An Australian researcher helping to design the Semantic Web for Health Care and Life Sciences says both Australian researchers and clinicians will win large gains from the project.
The newly formed World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Semantic Web for Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group (HCLSIG) accepted CSIRO's Dr David Hansen as a contributor at its first meeting in Boston last month.
Dr Hansen, who supervises the e-Health Research Centre's Health Data Integration (HDI) and e-Health Metadata & Ontologies projects, has an extensive background in data integration research and development in Australia and internationally.
"The Group has been formed to connect the medical industry with Semantic Web experts in an effort to improve collaboration, research and development, and innovation adoption in the health care and life science industries," Dr Hansen says.
"The W3C is developing standards and tools for the Semantic Web - the next generation of the World Wide Web. This technology relies heavily on metadata and ontologies."
The Semantic Web will guarantee information gathered by Australian researchers is much more readily collated with international research, and is easier to query and draw meaning from. At the healthcare end, clinicians will find it easier to relay the information they gather to other clinicians because the descriptions of the data will match.
The W3C is an international consortium created to lead the Web by developing common protocols to promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. The MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan run the facility jointly. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, and various prototype and sample applications.
W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee says the new venture puts W3C specifications "through the paces of a dynamic, multifaceted, and interdependent set of communities."
The CSIRO ICT Centre won the rights to host the Australian office of the W3C in October last year. Dr Alex Zelinsky, Director of CSIRO ICT Centre says "My plan is to increase the visibility of W3C in Australia and to create opportunities for Australian organizations to participate in W3C programs.
"The e-Health Research Centre's metadata and ontologies project will have a global impact through its contribution to the Sematic Web work of the W3C."
The e-Health Research Centre, a $15 million joint venture between CSIRO and the Queensland Government, is a national research facility in ICT for healthcare applications. Its researchers conduct trials on e-health solutions and undertake R&D to improve healthcare decisions through technologies that harness health data and strengthen the ability to provide healthcare with a patient-centric focus.
Dr Hansen says the not-for-profit National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) is writing standards but there is still a need for software able to interpret those standards and relate them to other available information.
Various Australian and international health providers and the e-Health Centre are all considering ways to interpret and incorporate those semantic web standards.
"That's not going to happen this year. The interest group has a two-year life frame," he says.
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