towards a formal language for biology
The growth of the scientific literature in the last 30 years has been astronomic. The library of medicine now includes more than 20 million articles, and our own discipline (neuroscience) includes nearly two million research articles.
Therefore, there is a great need to develop maps (simplified abstractions) of published information that could be used to characterize what is known and to guide research decisions. Essentially, we hope that our maps will be to neuroscience what mathematics has been for physics: a formal language to represent research findings.
As a first step, our laboratory developed a taxonomy for experiments and a set of algorithms to generate these maps. This taxonomy allows us to classify experiments in our field into a small set of distinct categories, a critical first step in the development of simplified abstractions of research findings. The algorithms are essential for representing these experiments in causal networks (i.e., our maps).
Additionally, we are in the process of developing a series of computer routines designed to use the taxonomy and algorithms we developed to automatically generate maps of research findings.
Silva, A.J., The science of research: the principles underlying the discovery of cognitive and other biological mechanisms. J Physiol Paris, 2007. 101(4-6): p. 203-13. PMID: 18280120 (PDF)