Today, most scientific information lives in silos, available to only a fraction of the people who could benefit from and contribute to it. Discovery and innovation are slowed by disciplinary boundaries and synergistic opportunities are missed.
The Semantic Web (also referred to as "web 3.0"), holds enormous promise in helping filter the volumes of information available globally. Technologies like Resource Description Frameworks (RDF), Web Ontology Language (OWL) and the proliferation of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are already changing the way we use, generate and interact with information and each other. As this happens, dozens of countries, states and provinces are embarking on "Open Government Data Initiatives." These data, combined with the enormous volumes of nonspecialist data (through blog posts, track logs, and tagged photos, to name just a few) constitute valuable and growing sources of information to complement traditional science in decision-making.
By linking these tools to the scientific process and integrating cutting-edge technology for data interpretation and visualization, Visual Life Web will accelerate the discovery, dissemination, and overall pace of science, bringing knowledge to bear on environmental problems and making science more responsive to pressing information needs.
Visual Life Web will also democratize data and knowledge. Public and philanthropic institutions fund science for public good. Making those findings and data discoverable and available magnifies the benefits of science and empowers many who have not traditionally participated in the scientific process. What’s more, Visual Life Web provides an avenue to track the demand for science and data, so that practicing scientists can make timely and relevant contributions. Finally, Visual Life Web will create opportunities for non-specialists to participate in the scientific process by collecting their own data, contributing observations, and responding to data and information requests.