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Second Annual Informatics Advisory Council Summit Highlights New Challenges

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Building on the success of last year’s event, Sun Microsystems held its second Informatics Advisory Council summit at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus on October 22-23.

Sun initiated the IAC last year in an effort to identify the primary challenges facing the life sciences computing community. Sia Zadeh, group manager of Sun’s life sciences division, described the meeting as an “open forum” where experts from industry, government, and academia can discuss real IT issues that they face on a daily basis.

Sun’s role in the IAC is not solely that of a facilitator, however. Zadeh said the company benefits by improving its awareness of the IT challenges facing its current and potential customers in the life sciences.

Last year’s summit identified data integration as the key challenge facing the field, eventually leading to the formation of the industry-wide I3C. The impact of this year’s summit will probably be more subtle, Zadeh said. One possible follow-on activity would be case studies of proof-of-concept solutions with full reports delivered over the course of the year.

Participants at this year’s meeting acknowledged that some advances have been made in data integration and moved their focus toward issues of data definition and semantics, Zadeh said.

Other key issues at this year’s meeting included data quality and bridging the gap between “silos” of biological and chemical data.

One goal of the IAC, Zadeh said, is to “push most of the IT to generic service providers so the scientists can focus on their research instead of on IT issues.”

A white paper detailing the findings of this year’s summit should be available from Sun by the end of the year.

— BT

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