Long live the web

Excellent article by TBL. I like the whole thing, and specially this bit:

A great example of future promise, which leverages the strengths of all the principles, is linked data. Today’s Web is quite effective at helping people publish and discover documents, but our computer programs cannot read or manipulate the actual data within those documents. As this problem is solved, the Web will become much more useful, because data about nearly every aspect of our lives are being created at an astonishing rate. Locked within all these data is knowledge about how to cure diseases, foster business value and govern our world more effectively.

Scientists are actually at the forefront of some of the largest efforts to put linked data on the Web. Researchers, for example, are realizing that in many cases no single lab or online data repository is sufficient to discover new drugs. The information necessary to understand the complex interactions between diseases, biological processes in the human body, and the vast array of chemical agents is spread across the world in a myriad of databases, spreadsheets and documents.

One success relates to drug discovery to combat Alzheimer’s disease. A number of corporate and government research labs dropped their usual refusal to open their data and created the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. They posted a massive amount of patient information and brain scans as linked data, which they have dipped into many times to advance their research. In a demonstration I witnessed, a scientist asked the question, “What proteins are involved in signal transduction and are related to pyramidal neurons?” When put into Google, the question got 233,000 hits—and not one single answer. Put into the linked databases world, however, it returned a small number of specific proteins that have those properties.

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