Using novel technologies and approaches in the life sciences the molecular inventory of biological systems now can be analyzed and studied in a complexity and completeness that was not reached before. Such studies provide extensive and very heterogenous research data that are the foundation for setting up computer models in systems biology, which are used to get a better understanding of biological processes in single cells and their parts, but also in tissues, organs or even the whole organism. Systems biology tries to assemble different research results obtained from different approaches at all biological scales: The genome, proteome, metabolome and their interplay in single cells triggering their cellular functions within tissues, organs and up to the whole organism.
The need for a common understanding of exchange formats and description standards for biological data and resulting computer models, including their metadata (data describing the data and models) particularly in interdisciplinary research fields as systems biology is clearly evident: The detection and description of the data, their efficient and secure exchange between researchers, institutes and industry, their integration into workflows and complex computer models, as well as their processing and analysis require a high degree of standardization. Consequently, the scientific communities in systems biology have already started to develop a bunch of many different community standards for their respective field. Unfortunately, these ‚bottom-up’ standardization initiatives mostly are working independently from each other and the developed standards are often not compatible. Thus, an efficient exchange of data and models, as well as further integration of the results to create complex models in many cases is not possible or at least hindered.
NormSys aims at a better coordination of the further standardization of such exisiting ‚grass-roots’ community standards in the field of computer modelling in systems biology. This goal should be reached by developing and implementing a coherent standardization and validation concept in close collaboration with both, the existing grass-roots standardization initiatives in the field like the COMBINE network („COmputational Modeling in BIology NEtwork“) and the official standardization organisations at national (e.g. DIN), European (e.g. CEN/CENELEC) and international (ISO) level.