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Data Integration from the Odd Couple

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Publisher John Wiley & Sons has been selling science content since the 1870s. Informatics firm LabBook has existed since January 2000. Call it an unlikely pairing, but representatives of both companies believe their recent alliance could reshape how scientists approach their work.

The major head-scratcher in the announcement was the entry of publisher Wiley into the bioinformatics field. “[Scientists] don’t really think about us as providing the data they need in a desktop environment,” concedes Brian Crawford, vice president and publishing director for Wiley’s life and medical sciences unit. But that’s exactly what his company wants to do. The product will combine LabBook’s XML browser with Wiley’s science content (including its laboratory manual series, Current Protocols) and will also enable scientists to incorporate their own data, other licensed data, and various resources. “It’s going to be an integration platform,” Crawford explains.

“That’s why the pharma firms are expressing an interest in this,” Crawford says. “It resides at the client level. … Whatever the customer is actually licensing, LabBook can write the data filter for.”

LabBook has its own interest in the venture. The platform will be based on the company’s version of XML — and as frustrated bioinformaticists everywhere know, there’s no set language standard yet in the field. So the time is ripe for LabBook to carve out its XML niche now. “If all these entities begin to embrace our flavor of XML,” says Shawn Green, LabBook’s CEO, “we believe we will certainly emerge as the standard.” The company expects to continue building XML converters, however.

The Wiley/LabBook product will have a rolling launch starting this summer and working into the fall.

— Meredith Salisbury

 

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