The use of ontologies within the Neuroscience Information Framework, a neuroscience-centered portal for searching and accessing diverse resources

Although a plethora of resources (tools, databases, materials) for neuroscientists is now available on the web, finding these resources among the billions of possible web pages continues to be a challenge. The lack of discoverability is particularly acute for information contained in on-line databases, whose dynamic content is largely opaque to web search engines such as Google.  The Neuroscience Information Framework (NIF; was launched in 2008 to address the problem of finding neuroscience-relevant resources.  It provides simultaneous search across multiple information sources to connect neuroscientists to available resources. Search through the NIF portal is enhanced through the utilization of a comprehensive ontology (NIFSTD) covering major domains in neuroscience, including diseases, brain anatomy, cell types, subcellular anatomy, small molecules, techniques and resource descriptors.  Through the NIFSTD vocabularies, users can expand search using synonyms and related terms and resource providers.  NIFSTD also provides a large neuroscience-centered vocabulary for resource providers to utilize when building or annotating tools and data.  In the past year, the NIF has undergone a significant upgrade in both functionality and content.  New features make it easier to search across the NIF information sources and to organize and view results.  The NIF vocabularies continue to be enhanced and expanded.  Tools for resource providers to make their tools and data available through NIF have been improved.  NIF has also made available a set of community tools whereby neuroscientists can contribute their knowledge and expertise, including the Neurolex Wiki, a semantically enhanced Wiki where each page represents a NIFSTD concept.


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