Even with the promise of modern genomics, our ability to understand human disease and realize precision health is limited without considering the effect of the environment. Achieving integration of phenotype, genotype, and environmental information will require an extensive translation of data into a computable form and the extension of the gene/phenotype data model.
Unfortunately, environmental health and toxicology data remain extremely difficult to search, integrate, and compute upon—not only due to the complexity but also the lack of convergence on standards and terminologies. Development of the standards for associating environmental exposures to phenotypic outcomes and the associated metadata is a vast undertaking that requires substantial community engagement. Despite advances such as the Exposure Ontology (ExO), the Environmental Conditions, Treatments, and Exposures Ontology (ECTO), more work is needed, particularly in implementing the sociological aspects of community-driven standards development.
A few workshops have been held in the past few years to mobilize the community around standards development and a strategy for toxicology ontology development has been proposed. See the recommended links for further information on these efforts.
This BoF proposal is a first step towards creating a sustainable community to support the need for not only awareness and coordination, but also the development and adoption of standards in fostering environmental health data access, interoperability, and reuse. RDA provides a unique forum to coordinate with other international efforts underway to develop toxicological, exposome, and other environmental health ontologies and standards. Furthermore, the objectives of several RDA cross-cutting (vocabulary services, metadata, ...) and domain-specific (earth sciences, ELIXIR, chemistry, health data, ...) interest groups align with our objectives and would be worthwhile collaborators on specific goals.