In an October 7th article in The Huffington Post blog section, Steve Rosenbaum discusses the development of a so-called "Curation Economy". Rosenbaum writes that the creation of content on the web is increasing at an exponential rate, leading to a massive amount of raw and unfiltered data. This includes information ranging from "Likes" on Facebook and YouTube videos, to content such as online news articles, and blog posts like this one. So how do internet users take advantage of this avalanche of information without being overwhelmed? Rosenbaum's answer is through the use of curators.
Though this post discusses general curation of web content, many of his points apply directly to PharmGKB, and the way that the knowledgebase manages its own deluge of information. The era of personalized medicine has brought with it a large increase in studies analyzing pharmacogenetic (PGx) associations. Though this is great for the field, the usefulness of this information is dependent on whether it can be organized and presented in a way that is helpful for all types of interested parties, such as researchers, students or clinicians. PharmGKB addresses this need through the work of curators, who are responsible for annotating, aggregating and integrating PGx study results. Through this process, curators are able to make vast quantities of PGx information useful, accessible and understandable to all types of users. Rosenbaum also makes an important note about how technology is necessary to assist in the finding, filtering and validating of content, and how curation cannot be an exclusively human enterprise. This is certainly true for PharmGKB, since manually keeping pace with the large volume of literature being published is a significant challenge. Current work in natural language processing (NLP) by the knowledgebase aims to assist curators in the identification and extraction of PGx relationships.
This article reminds us that though the exponential creation of data is exciting prospect, is it essential to be able to manage this information, and extract meaningful and relevant data. This is true for normal web users, pharmacogenetic researchers, and people in various fields worldwide.
You can read Steve Rosenbaum's article here or here, and visit PharmGKB here.