Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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RightField - Spreadsheets with meaning
Niall Beard, Alan Robert Williams, Stuart David Owen, Carole Anne Goble

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rum 10
Date: 2014-10-30 02:25 PM – 02:30 PM
Last modified: 2014-10-03


Scientists use spreadsheets as a common way to collect and share their data. We recognise this with RightField, and it was the main motivation behind creating it.

An ongoing problem with the use of spreadsheets is that users may mis-enter information, for example in the wrong column, or by mis-spelling data. It is also difficult to extract and share the data entered in spreadsheets as it is unclear what a data value "means". RightField helps to solve both these problems by using spreadsheet templates that constrain the values to conform to ontological terms.

Scientists using RightField enabled spreadsheet templates can

  • continue to work without changing their practices,
  • use the same tools they are familiar with, and
  • consistently annotate their data without the need to explore and understand the numerous standards and ontologies available to them.

RightField is used by a 'Template Creator' to create the semantically aware Excel spreadsheet templates. The Excel templates are then reused by Scientists to collect and annotate their data.

The templates created by RightField are standard vanilla Excel spreadsheets (no special plugins or macros required). The templates can be shared, edited, and reused just like any other spreadsheets.

The data entered into a spreadsheet can be extracted into Resource Description Framework (RDF) terms, making repository submission and semantic querying significantly easier - all without additional overheads to laboratory data management.

RightField is open source and free to use under the BSD licence. The source code is available at https://github.com/myGrid/RightField.  For more information, please visit http://www.rightfield.org.uk

RightField was developed by the myGrid team at the University of Manchester and by the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS). It was funded by BBSRC SysMO-DB2 Grant BB/1004637/1.