Meeting on shared names for biomedical information records on the Web

Community-wide use of shared names for records from public databases could have a significant effect on the practice of bioinformatics by making it easier to share and link data sets and tools across projects. While publishing data in RDF is appealing to many organizations, the mechanics of selecting and maintaining identifiers is a major obstacle to deployment. A growing body of experience emphasizes that for any solution to be generally adopted it must not only be technically sound, but also serve the practical needs of curators and other users.

The Shared Names initiative has as its mission to assign URIs as names for publicly available biomedical information records and establish a community managed shared infrastructure for providing durable access to documentation about these names, as described in a set of requirements [1]. The scope of resources under consideration is initially limited to records in databases, such as those mentioned in the external links (dbxrefs) from the Gene Ontology (GO) [2], for records from Enzyme or Pfam. A proposed implementation, to be demonstrated at the meeting, uses federated PURL servers that provide RDF-encoded metadata that clearly specifies what the URI denotes and that links the shared names to alternative encodings and associated information about the records.

We plan to hold a one day working group meeting to continue to work on technical and administrative design issues. The meeting will focus on assessing work to date, reviewing requirements and surfacing new ones, addressing some of the items of business listed at [3], and planning for subsequent work.

In addition to participation by members of the steering committee [4] and a set of invited experts, this meeting is open to a number of additional participants. We are particularly interested in attendees who have previous experience in designing a naming system, have novel requirements that they wish to expose, are developers of systems that cross-reference public biomedical records or are primary providers of them who might help coordinate on issues such as synchronization of added and removed records and creation/deprecation of shared names for them.

The meeting will take place on April 29, 2009, at the Stata Center in Cambridge, MA. Expressions of interest in attending should be made by registering, ideally, by March 23, 2009, at: with a brief note detailing your interest and how you might contribute to the success of the meeting. Registrations received by 23rd will result in a confirmation of attendance sent by COB March 26, 2009. Work of the Shared Names initiative is intended to be open source and royalty free.


  • M. Scott Marshall, W3C HCLS Interest group
  • Mark Musen, The National Center for Biomedical Ontology
  • Eric Prud'hommeaux, W3C
  • Jonathan Rees, Science Commons
  • Alan Ruttenberg, Science Commons, OBO Foundry
  • Trish Whetzel, The National Center for Biomedical Ontology