Several people in the Network of BioThings (NoB) community recently attended our first in-person meetup (the meeting summary for those who couldn’t attend is forthcoming). And one thing that became particularly clear is the importance of having good “Driving Biological Projects” (DBP).


The NoB is meant to address a grand challenge in biology. But we need to ensure that we aren’t building infrastructure for infrastructure’s sake, that we aren’t paralyzed by the enormity of the challenge, and that we aren’t driven by the latest technology trend of the day. DBPs exist to ensure that we stay focused on first solving a set of real biological problems. Once we succeed in these focused areas, we can gradually generalize to more and more use cases.

Imagine if the Network of BioThings existed today. How would you use this knowledgebase?
So what will be our DBPs? NoB will be a community resource, so in that spirit we want to engage the community for help. We’re asking you to share your thoughts and ideas for compelling use cases. Imagine if the NoB existed today, that we had a comprehensive knowledgebase that linked biomedical entities and that was current with the biomedical literature. How would you use this knowledgebase?

To provide a little extra motivation, we’re offering one $500 prize for the best submitted idea. The primary criterion for judging will be significance — if your idea was successfully implemented, how much of an impact would it have in the scientific community?

As you develop your idea and your submission, think about these questions:

  • Why is this research question important?
  • Why can’t this research question be solved currently?
  • What types of data and metadata does the NoB need to capture?
  • What are the types of queries and analyses that NoB would enable?

By way of examples, both N-of-1 cancer genomics and neuroscience have been mentioned as potential areas for DBPs. But these past discussions have been vague enough such that these topics should not be considered off limits, nor should they be considered limiting. We are open to any and all ideas!

Some additional rules and instructions:

  • Post your submission in any public online place. One easy option is to send an email to the NoB mailing list (add the prefix “DBP contest: ” to your subject line). Posting it on your own web page or blog is perfectly fine as well. After that, email me (Andrew) the link to your submission.
  • Judging will be done my a committee (currently comprised of Andrew Su, Gary Bader, Michel Dumontier, and Chris Evelo).
  • The winner will need to sign a standard consulting agreement to get paid, and the winning solution will be published on this blog.
  • The deadline for submission is April 25, 2014 (though we reserve the right to extend this deadline).

We are excited to see what you can come up with!