A vast body of knowledge on useful properties of plants and fungi is held in published and grey literature, and on the Worldwide Web. This information has great potential for providing scientific leads for bioscience research and the development of solutions to pressing global challenges. However, whilst large bodies of data are available through databases, much remains uncatalogued and effectively unavailable to potential users. Furthermore, anomalies in taxonomic usage and synonymy present significant obstacles to their interpretation and application. Only through systematic survey of these resources can we identify the full scale of the problem and harvest the data for presentation in an accessible, standardised and taxonomically reliable form. However, it is clear that the scale (and rate of growth of the data resource) is such that this cannot feasibly be achieved without the development of bioinformatics tools to mine, standardise, verify, analyse and present the information to end-users in real time.
The project’s objective is to harness the value of currently inaccessible information on useful plants and fungi, through the development of bioinformatics tools that are capable of mining data, evaluating levels of confidence and analysing, in real time, the scale and the rate of expansion of the resources.
Because of the complexity of this enterprise, this project will focus on the America’s flora, where information is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, three languages that are mastered by the supervising team.
This project will contribute directly to Kew’s Useful Plants and Fungi Portal (UPFP) strategic output: http://science.kew.org/strategic-output/useful-plants-and-fungi-portal.