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As caBIG Software and Data Emerge, NCI Refines Compatibility Guidelines

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BETHESDA, Md. — The caBIG community is prolific. As of last week, there were 48 different projects listed on caBIG's "inventory of tools" website. Several of these, including the caArray database, the caWorkbench analysis platform, and the caTIES clinical trial text-extraction package, are already up and running at several cancer centers (caBIG's 2005 product and data timeline is available here).

As the fruits of the project move out of the prototype phase and into production, the NCI has developed a set of compatibility guidelines to ensure interoperability between software and databases developed as part of caBIG. The guidelines are in a tiered structure — Legacy, Bronze, Silver, and Gold — to describe how well they mesh with the caBIG infrastructure.

Peter Covitz, director of bioinformatics core infrastructure at NCI's Center for Bioinformatics, told BioInform that the guidelines are not only for the caBIG community, however. Outside developers, including commercial firms, interested in making their software compatible with caBIG will be held to the same standards.

The first version of the compatibility guidelines were released last June. A draft of the second revision of the guidelines, released on April 5, is available at the caBIG website. According to the website, a final version of the second revision should be available by June, at which time it "will become the prevailing operational guideline for the caBIG program."

Broadly, the Legacy level implies "no interoperability with an external system or resource," according to the draft guidelines; Bronze includes the "minimum requirements" that must be met to achieve a "basic degree of interoperability;" and Silver includes a "rigorous" set of requirements that "significantly reduce the barrier to use of a resource by a remote party who was not involved in the development of that resource." The requirements for Gold compatibility are still "being defined by the caBIG participants."

The draft guidelines provide additional details on programming interfaces, vocabularies and ontologies, data elements, and information models that are required for each level of compatibility.

The caBIG strategic plan, which was unveiled at the annual meeting last week, calls for the project to "Promulgate Gold, Silver, and Bronze development project standards" to the national cancer research community over the course of 2005.

By mid-2008, the plan calls for funded projects to be "operating under the Gold standard of compatibility."

— BT

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