Thursday, April 05, 2012

EOL Computable Data Challenge community

17823 130 130Now we are awash in challenges! EOL has announced its Computable Data Challenge:
We invite ideas for scientific research projects that use EOL, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), to answer questions in biology. The specific field of biological interest for the challenge is open; projects in ecology, evolution, behavior, conservation biology, developmental biology, or systematics may be most appropriate. Projects advancing informatics alone may be less competitive. EOL may be used as a source of biological information, to establish a sampling strategy, to assist the retrieval of computable data by mapping identifiers across sources (e.g. to accomplish name resolution), and/or in other innovative ways. Projects involving data or text or image mining of EOL or BHL content are encouraged. Current EOL data and API shall be used; suggestions for modification of content or the API could be a deliverable of the project. We encourage the use of data not yet in EOL for analyses. In all cases projects must honor terms of use and licensing as appropriate.

Some $US 50,000 is on offer. "Challenge" is perhaps a misnomer, as EOL is offering this money not as a prize at the end, but rather to fund one or more proposals (submitted by 22 May) that are accepted. So, it's essentially a grant competition (with a pleasingly minimal amount of administrivia). There is also a Computable Data Challenge community to discuss the challenge.

It's great to see EOL trying different strategies to engage with developers. Of the different challenges EOL is running this one is perhaps the most appealing to me, because one of my biggest complaints about EOL is that it's hard to envisage "doing science" with it. For example, we can download GenBank and cluster sequences into gene families, or grab data from GBIF and model species distributions, but what could we do with EOL? This challenge will be a chance to explore the extent to which EOL can support science, which I would argue will be a key part of its long term future.