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Re: Bionet controversial topic #7: What a biomechanics datarepository should contain in order to be valuable?

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  • Re: Bionet controversial topic #7: What a biomechanics datarepository should contain in order to be valuable?

    Dear all,

    > Bionet controversial topic #7: What a biomechanics data repository should
    > contain in order to be valuable?

    The availability of public data is of course a wonderful way to allow scientists to move forwards
    in their field. The NIH Visible Human Project is a good example: I am pretty sure that the authors
    of the latter project did not expect the number of applications developed from their results.
    Therefore, yes, we should try to build some kind of repository where people could find data for
    their own applications.

    Unique Model (UM) vs Data Repository (DR)
    ************************************************** *

    Now, as Marco asked in his email: what should be put available? Data that would allow us to build
    one unique model in order to eventually reach the perfect "man/woman"? Or on the contrary, we
    should make available as many different datasets as possible.

    Here we can find some ideas from the Visible Human Project. For that project, data from one male
    and one female is available. Despite a real value, such limited dataset shows quickly its
    limitations. Indeed, the variations in the human anatomy are too numerous and one single UM would
    never be satisfactory for most applications: indeed imagine a researcher who wants to develop some
    system or working environment taking into account the human morphology and its variation (i.e. a
    car driver environment) ... only a well-furnished DR will satisfy this researcher's needs.

    So, personally I would choose for a DR showing as many human variations as possible instead of a

    By the way, I do invite people having a limited experience in the Human Anatomy to open a textbook
    where anatomical variations are described: you will be stunned about all possible variations found
    in the human body ..., and some are very frequent with consequences on our musculoskeletal system!!

    Quality of the DR

    It is of course very important that the quality of the data within the DR is entirely validated.
    Again, the Visible Human Project experience can give us some hints. The data from this project have
    not been validated (or at least I am not aware of any study that showed an extensive documentation
    about the validation of the experimental protocols used within that project). I already mentioned
    that this particular dataset allowed many useful applications in many fields … but on the other
    hand, when you analyzed these applications very few of them (actually, I do not not any …) present
    quantitative results; most results have been obtained in the Computer Graphics field and exploited
    mainly in Medical Education. Applications are stunning from a display point-of-view, but bring
    little new informations on the Human Anatomy.
    Therefore , I feel that non?validated data should not be accepted in the DR because of their
    limited value for further research in Biomechanics. If non?validated data would be accepted anyway,
    then it should be clearly indicated.

    The data in the DR should also be fully documented. Of course, information about data format and
    data manipulation should be available as well. If possible, a full description about the data
    collection procedure should be present as well (unless the procedure is somehow kept private).
    Also, the DR content should be dynamic: that means that users would be asked to send their feedback
    in order to improve the DR content and documentation.

    Without saying that we achieve that ultimate goal (we are far from it!), I think that that VAKHUM
    project ( tried to adopt such philosophy. We will make available soon
    (an announcement will be sent to biomch-l in due time) a public dataset that will contain data
    (both raw and processed data on bone morphology and kinematics of the lower limb) AND extensive
    documentation (including full validation and the experimental protocol used). Also, potential users
    will be asked to send their feedback for improvement.

    Management of the DR

    The management of an extensive DR is not a small job. In my opinion, such DR should be under
    supervision of a group of experts including several fields of research.
    The task of this group would be to control if some data were validated enough to be accepted ? only
    then the overall quality of the DR would be guaranteed.
    Such management will, of course, requires some financial sources to make this possible. Therefore,
    this should certainly be organized between several research institutions within, for example, a
    Network of Excellence as funded by the European Commission.

    Now, I totally agree with Rainer Goellner and Ton van den Bogert: the main problem, next to the
    data creation, would be to find motivated people to do the job because it is heavy, but on the
    other hand the posiition will probably receive a much lower scientifical feedback than real
    publications ...

    Now, is it a valid reason to stop this idea: I feel not because biomechanics is getting more and
    more complex: researchers are trying/willing to combine data from many sources in order to obtain
    better models ... the only way to promote quality research is to make quality available to all.

    Free of paying access to the DR?
    This is a very sensitive topic.
    Of course, the best thing would be a free access to the DR data to allow any institution or
    individual to perform research independently from any financial aspect to obtain quality data.
    But we must keep in mind that most important funding institutions requires from funded projects
    that they consider very seriously a commercial exploitation of their results. For example, The
    European Commission clearly pushes the European-funded projects to prospect the financial income
    they coula generate from their research; within the VAKHUM project we have to produce a real
    business plan and consider selling our data. This kind of situation makes the free distribution of
    data difficult (the above VAKHUM public dataset mentioned above is only a small part of the full
    database the project created; the remaining of the database will probably be accessible through a
    paying system).

    This can sound not very scientifical, but the budget of such projects is so large that it is normal
    that the funding institution is requesting a real result exploitation ... now I agree that somehow
    exploitation is not only about making money, but this is another debate and I will not start it

    As final word, I would simply add that I would be happy to continue this discussion at the Bionet
    event that takes place this week-end (see in Brussels (Belgium) where Data
    Repositories and Networks of Excellence will be discussed (among MANY other topics!).

    Greeting from Belgium !!

    Serge VAN SINT JAN, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor, Marie Curie Fellow
    Department of Anatomy (CP 619)
    University of Brussels (ULB)
    Lennik Street 808
    1070 Brussels - Belgium
    Phone: +32-2-555-6325 (-6376)
    Fax: +32-2-555-6378
    VAKHUM project coordinator:

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