Thursday, March 30, 2017

March for Science #marchforscience

You cannot have missed it, and if you did, you know about it know. We're marching for science. Originating in the USA, the marches are spreading around the world, also in Europe. More than 400 was the count a week ago. One by one, European cities joined with initiatives. Science March Stockholm was the first to get my interest, but Science March Amsterdam followed soon after. So, no reason to return to Stockholm this April. Here's a map with all planned marches around the world:

Zooming in on Europe (well, part of it), we get this map:

Quite a bit of choice. We see several countries with multiple marches. The Netherlands shows the Amsterdam march, but ideas have been posed to organize a Science March in Maastricht too.

Well, I will be marching. For what? For the importance of apolitical, nonreligious facts about the world. Facts that can be proven true, but also for a world where people value facts, fulfilling the human rights for everyone, as facts don't care about race, gender, color, left, right, or nerdiness.

Our world is precious; human and nature is precious. If we choose to destroy the world or if we choose to prosper mankind and nature, let it because of neutral facts. Not wishful thinking, money, or politics.

Let's show that science (of any domain, not just life sciences, but also humanities, etc) is by everyone and for everyone. Access to knowledge is a human right, is to benefit everyone. The march is for everyone too: you do not have to be working in scientific research to join the march to express your wish to have a fact-based country.

April 22, Amsterdam and Maastricht! Join!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

OpenAPI to the Ensembl example

Already many months ago I joined a (doi:10.1093/nar/gkv1116) workshop in Amsterdam, organized by Gert Vriend et al (see this coverage). I learned then how to register services, search, and that underneath JSON is used in the API to exchange information about the services. One neat feature is that allows you to specify a lot of detail of the service calls.

Now, at the time we had already used OpenAPI (then still called Swagger) for Open PHACTS for some time, which we later picked up for other projects, like eNanoMapper (API), WikiPathways (API), and BridgeDb (API). OpenAPI configuration files also describe how web services work. So, the idea arose to that it should be possible to convert the first to the second. Simple. I started a GitHub repository, but, of course, did not really have time to implement it.

Then, half a year ago, at the ELIXIR track meeting at the ECCB in The Hague (where I presented this BridgeDb poster), I spoke with people from ELIXIR-DK who were just starting a studentship scheme. This led to a project idea, then a proposal, and then an small, approved project, allowing me to fund Jonathan Mélius to work on this part-time, for about a man month of work, spread over several months.

Jonathan has been doing great work, and because we liked to demo the OpenAPI 2 bridge with a major European resource, Ensembl was suggested (which just published a paper on their core software). An OpenAPI for Ensembl was set up, which is going to be the primary input for the new tool:

The next step was to take the JSON defining the content of this page (you can find the URL to the JSON file at the top of that page, hosted on GitHub too), and convert that to fragments. That the approach works, shows this test entry in

The observant eye will see that various bits of details of the descriptions of the API calls are annotated with EDAM ontology (doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btt113) terms, a key feature of This information is currently not available in the OpenAPI JSON (we will be exploring how that specification could/should be extended to do this). Moreover, the webservice API methods need ontological annotation in the first place, and we will not be able to totally remove human involvement there.

The EDAM IRIs are still hard-coded in the conversion tool at this moment, but are being factored out into a secondary JSON file for now. So, the conversion tool will take two input JSON files, OpenAPI + EDAM annotation, and create JSON output. The latter can then be inserted into the JSON. We will work on something based on the API to automate that step too.

So, we still have some work to do, but I'm happy with the current progress. We're well on track to complete this project before summer and actually get a long way with the ontology annotation, which was an secondary in the original plan.

Feedback welcome!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What an Open Science project does: eNanoMapper deliverables archived on ZENODO

eNanoMapper has ended. It was my first EC-funded project as PI. It was great to run a three year Open Science project at this scale. I loved the collaboration with the other partners, and like to thank Lucian and Markus for their weekly coordination of the project! Lucian also reflected on the project in this blog post. He describes the successful completion of the project, and we partly thank that to the uptake of ideas, solutions, and approaches by the NanoSafety Cluster (NSC) community. Many thanks to all NSC projects, including for example NANoREG who were very early adopters!

Our legacy is substantial, I think. I have blogged about some aspects in the past. The projects output includes RRegrs for scanning the regression model space, extensions of AMBIT for substances, tools on top of the APIs, visualizations with JavaScript, etc. Things have been done Open Source and you can find many repositories on GitHub, and we used Jenkins to autobuild various components, and not just source code, but also the eNanoMapper ontology. Several software releases are archived on ZENODO, the ontology is available from BioPortal, the Ontology Lookup Service, and AberOWL (and thanks to the operators for their support to get it properly online!).

Several publications have been published, along with many tutorials. On the website you could already access many of the deliverables of the project. And last week all public deliverables are now archived on ZENODO (HT to Lucian):

Next time, I want to see if we can get the deliverables published in, for example, Research Intentions and Outcomes journal.

Finally, I like to thanks everyone else if the Maastricht University team that worked on eNanoMapper: Cristian Munteanu, who was my first post-doc, Bart Smeets, Linda Rieswijk, Freddie Ehrhart, and part-time Nuno Nunes and Lars Eijssen. Without them I could not have completed our deliverables.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Upcoming meeting: "Open science and the chemistry lab of the future"

Following the example by Henry Rzepa, here an announcement of a meeting with a great program organized by the Beilstein Institut in Germany. The meeting does also mean I cannot attend another really important meeting, WikiCite, which has a partial overlap :(

At the Open science and the chemistry lab of the future meeting meeting I will represent ELIXIR, which is quite a challenge as they are doing so much, and I only have so much time to cover that. Worse, I am only part-time working on specific ELIXIR tasks, but fortunately getting great help from Rob Hooft of the Dutch Techcenter for Life Sciences (DTL, practically the Dutch ELIXIR node).

I am very much looking forward to meeting friends and seeing people I have only yet met online, like Stuart Chalk (who recently published the CCZero Open Spectral Database) and Open Source Malaria Matthew Todd. Oh, and if you cannot attend the meeting in person, the hashtag to follow is #BeilsteinOS. If you can join, you can register to the meeting here.