New IBM tool captures experts' knowledge

IBM Corp. has announced InsightLink, a software tool that is designed to help life science organizations collect the thoughts and comments of researchers into a central, searchable repository.

"When we (conduct) a research process, we use a variety of applications," says Ajay Royyuru, senior manager of IBM Research's computational biology center. "There is a thought process -- a stream of consciousness -- when you use these tools."

Royyuru notes that this process is not explicit and that researchers are not usually required to write down their steps or thoughts. In many cases, capturing this information could be valuable to a life science company. That's because this tacit knowledge is what guides a scientist's research direction. For instance, after viewing the analysis of an experiment's results, a researcher may decide to further explore a particular molecular compound or may choose to switch his or her emphasis to another compound.

Normally this thought process is, at best, written into a researcher's paper lab notebook, where, in most cases, the information never gets shared with others within a company.

"With InsightLink, imagine having a notepad up on your screen," says Royyuru. Essentially, InsightLink will integrate the capturing of tacit knowledge and mining of this information across applications.

He notes that a company might have InsightLink as a toolbar or a plug-in to an existing application. This would let a researcher enter tacit knowledge in the context of that application.

On the back end of an InsightLink system, all of this information entered by researchers would be brought together and mined. "This is where (InsightLink) goes beyond a notepad or a Post-It note on your desktop," says Royyuru.

InsightLink will enable life science companies to integrate information across the enterprise to create a tacit knowledge repository. The underlying technology to pull the data together and to search the repository is up to the life science company. For instance, InsightLink could sit on top of IBM's data integration software DiscoveryLink.

Once the knowledge is stored in an enterprise repository, "now you can apply text mining tools," says Royyuru. In this way, the next time a researcher starts a discovery process, that researcher can see what others in the company have already done.

InsightLink will be generally available later this year.

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