Using CONTEXTS is possible to build rich web applications that integrate the information retrieved from several biological resources.

About

CONTEXTS is a collection of FLEX components specially designed to be the used in biology, bioinformatics and synthetic biology applications. The goal is to provide web developers with building blocks that represent data extracted from several biological resources.

The way that users interact with the information plays an important role in the knowledge extraction and the definition of new hypothesis. For instance the Google interactive graph displaying the United States unemployment rate per year and state allows users to extract conclusions about the distribution of this index across the country and also to make some cautious predictions over the time.

Must of the time however the information is distributed across different sources in such a way that users need to compile first the data and then perform the analysis. Perhaps one of the must ambitious projects to compile and represent data from different sources is the Gapminder project conduced by Hans Rosling. In the project web site users can explore a large collection of graph covering fields like: economy, health, education etc.

Biological and health research fields have been swamp with a huge amount of data since the “omics” revolution. Currently after some years of refinements several repositories are very well established as a providers of biological data. Those resources like GeneBank, Ensembl, UniProt etc provides the community with access to raw data and also tools to analyse the information. Several file formats and protocols standards (i.e. ASN1, FASTA, DAS etc) have been designed specifically to share biological data. A big number of tools to manipulate and visualize the information are also available, for instance the Ensembl browser is one of the must used tool to represent genome annotations.

The difference between the tools available for biological research and the tools used to create the unemployment rate graph is that while the biological tools are only available in their own web site the Google visualization tools can be embed in any web site. Therefore the Google visualization tools can be assembled to create new meaning based on the combination of the information provided in each tool. The personal iGoogle dashboard is one example of how these tools can be assembled.

CONTEXTS attempts to fill this gap by providing web developers with components that can be embed in any web page displaying biological information.