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Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1510438

Laying a Community-Based Foundation for Data-Driven Semantic Standards in Environmental Health Sciences

Carolyn J. Mattingly1, Rebecca Boyles2, Cindy P. Lawler2, Astrid C. Haugen2, Allen Dearry2, and Melissa Haendel3
Author Affiliations open
1Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for Human Health and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; 2National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA; 3Library and Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA

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  • Background: Despite increasing availability of environmental health science (EHS) data, development and implementation of relevant semantic standards, such as ontologies or hierarchical vocabularies, has lagged. Consequently, integration and analysis of information needed to better model environmental influences on human health remains a significant challenge.

    Objectives: Identify a committed community and mechanisms needed to develop EHS semantic standards that will advance understanding about the impacts of environmental exposures on human disease.

    Methods: The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) sponsored a Workshop for the Development of a Framework for Environmental Health Science Language hosted at North Carolina State University on September 15-16, 2014. Through the assembly of data generators, users, publishers and funders, we aimed to develop a foundation for enabling community-based and data driven standards development that will ultimately improve standardization, sharing, and interoperability of EHS information.

    Discussion: Creating and maintaining an EHS common language is a continuous and iterative process, requiring community building around research interests and needs, enabling integration and reuse of existing data, and providing a low barrier of access for researchers needing to use or extend such a resource.

    Conclusions: Recommendations included developing a community-supported Web-based toolkit that would enable: 1) collaborative development of EHS research questions and use cases; 2) construction of user-friendly tools for searching and extending existing semantic resources; 3) education and guidance about standards and their implementation; and 4) creation of a plan for governance and sustainability.

  • This EHP Advance Publication article has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. EHP Advance Publication articles are completely citable using the DOI number assigned to the article. This document will be replaced with the copyedited and formatted version as soon as it is available. Through the DOI number used in the citation, you will be able to access this document at each stage of the publication process.

    Citation: Mattingly CJ, Boyles R, Lawler CP, Haugen AC, Dearry A, Haendel M. Laying a Community-Based Foundation for Data-Driven Semantic Standards in Environmental Health Sciences. Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510438

    Received: 7 July 2015
    Accepted: 3 February 2016
    Advance Publication: 12 February 2016

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