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A European model for bioinformatics research and community education

Final Report Summary - EMBRACE (A European model for bioinformatic research and community education)

The ultimate aim of the EMBRACE project was to bring together a wide group of experts from Europe involved in the use of information technology in the biomolecular sciences. The EMBRACE Network of Excellence (NoE) would optimise informatics and information exploitation by pure and applied biological scientists in both the academic and commercial sectors. The result was a highly integrated access to a broad range of biomolecular data and software packages. The groups in the network were involved in the following activities:
- the collection, curation and provision of biomolecular information;
- the development of tools and programming interfaces;
- the track and exploit of advances in information technology with a view to their application in bioinformatics;
- the training and outreach to groups which could benefit from the work of the network.

The groups worked together with the aim of enabling highly functional interactive access to a wide range of biomolecular data (sequence, structure, annotation) and tools to exploit the data. This involved the use many core databases and tools available from the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI); but, crucially, the methods used supported the integration of dispersed, autonomous information. The integration of dispersed, autonomous information required the integration of widely distributed services. Clearly defined standards were required to achieve this goal so that data content and analysis tools worked together under a common interface. EMBRACE focused on developing and maintaining the recommended standards for service development and deployment. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the EMBRACE approach a set of test cases was required. Each test case addressed a specific biological or technological problem and served three purposes: to demonstrate the biological usefulness of the project services, to identify requirements for new service functionality, and to drive the technological developments needed for closer interoperability.

Through the collaboration, groups throughout Europe were capable of integrating their own local or proprietary databases and tools into the framework. The project succeeded in developing a registry of bioinformatic services and an annotation standard using a new ontology (EDAM) that covered more than half of all services in the new bio-catalogue registry at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) EBI. These services and their standards were the key permanent products of the project.

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