World's first databank for all living systems

esert will provide a prototype for the Library of Life and will sketch the structure for libraries of other regions richer in alternative life forms and more challenging to handle."

The complex nature of the data, he says, will require the development of new software and new database systems. "We will need to handle new information at an unprecedented scale as well as to integrate many existing databases. This is a very major undertaking -- besides the obvious challenge of collecting the data."

Making the Library of Life's huge data set accessible over the Web also will require a number of technical breakthroughs. A new language will be created integrating classification schemes of different life science disciplines, making it easy to navigate between the biology of the small and of the large. "The ties between biology and the information sciences have always been deep; this project will generate many hard questions for computing and information science, and provide opportunities to apply our technology to meeting basic human needs," says Robert Constable, dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science at Cornell. "We will be challenged to find ways to integrate the many databases being created for the life sciences and to organize them to facilitate problem solving, discovery and education."

To enable this rapid exploration of data and comprehensive mathematical modeling of life on Earth, data structures and query languages will be created, guided by a think tank of Cornell researchers -- in time to include experts from around the world -- in the biological, computer and physical sciences. For example, the large-scale data integration will make it possible computationally to examine the effects of drug molecules on their environment and ecology.

Cornell's wide-ranging experience in international education and research springs from its pioneer work in agricultural development in what is now Nanjing University, China, in the early 20th

Contact: David Brand
Cornell University News Service

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