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Standardization Groups Launch Initiative to Harmonize 'Minimum Information' Checklists

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A collection of molecular biology standardization groups has launched a new initiative to coordinate a growing number of so-called “minimum information” checklists that have emerged to help researchers share data from genomics, proteomics, and other high-throughput biological experiments.
In a commentary published this week in the August issue of Nature Biotechnology, the researchers describe the harmonization effort, called “Minimum Information about a Biomedical or Biological Investigation,” or MIBBI, which aims to provide an overarching set of guidelines for standardization groups to ensure interoperability and prevent duplication of effort.


Since the publication in 2001 of the first minimum information checklist, “Minimum Information About a Microarray Experiment,” or MIAME, a number of projects have formed to create similar guidelines for reporting “metadata” about different biological experiments.
However, this proliferation of projects presented a challenge because “different communities were at risk of developing mutually incompatible standards,” Chris Taylor, a researcher at the European Bioinformatics Institute and co-author of the Nature Biotech paper, said in a statement.
In addition, the authors note in the paper, “overlaps in scope and arbitrary decisions on wording and substructuring [for different checklists] inhibit their use in combination” — an issue of particular concern for researchers who “routinely combine information from several disciplines.”
As a result, several existing checklist projects formed MIBBI in an effort to “facilitate the development of an integrated checklist resource site for the wider bioscience community,” the authors write.
To date, 21 checklist development projects have registered with MIBBI, including MIAME, MIAPE (Minimum Information about a Proteomics experiment), MIARE (Minimum Information about an RNA interference Experiment), MIGS (Minimum Information about a Genome Sequence), MIACA (Minimum Information about a Cellular Assay), and MIRIAM (Minimum Information Requested In the Annotation of biochemical Models).
“Communities working together through MIBBI will produce non-overlapping minimal information modules,” said Dawn Field, a researcher at the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council Environmental Bioinformatics Center and a co-author of the paper. “The idea is that each checklist will fit neatly into a jigsaw, with each community being able to take the pieces that are relevant to them.”
MIBBI has two parts. The first is the MIBBI Portal, which provides summary information for each of the registered projects and exists “simply to raise awareness of, and afford more straightforward access to, a wide range of checklists by providing researchers, journal editors, reviewers, funders and the wider community of checklist developers with a quick and simple way to discover (whether there is) a checklist addressing a particular area and to establish the scope and progress of the underlying project,” according to the paper.
The second component of the project is the MIBBI Foundry, which plans to closely examine the available checklists and eventually develop a suite of “self-consistent,
clearly bounded, orthogonal, integrable checklist modules.”
These modules will be released through MICheckout, a tool that is currently under development by the EBI and the NERC’s Environmental Bioinformatics Center. MICheckout will assist users in compiling the correct list of modules and downloading them in a form that they can use, the paper said.