|A Conversation with Larry Wright |
Larry Wright is co-director of the NCI Enterprise Vocabulary Services (EVS) in the NCI Office of Communications. He has worked for 30 years on computer information systems and biomedical informatics, and came to NCI from Yale University and the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
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What's it like to keep a vast system like EVS functioning?
EVS will thrive only if it grows and evolves with the needs of our users. Cancer science and systems change rapidly, and we have to keep up to be useful. We add hundreds of new terms each month and try to respond within 24 hours to requests for new terms. We have a team of editors who scan the scientific literature in their respective specialties. We are constantly evaluating other terminologies and ontologies that might enhance EVS. Above all, we spend a lot of time talking with our users and partners trying to figure how to extend and tailor our systems to better meet their needs.
What strategic partnerships have expanded the reach of EVS?
The growing number of partners using EVS resources has been very exciting. For several years, we've been working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Veterans Administration, and NLM to create a common framework for drug terminology and to exchange data. An example is the new Structured Product Labeling, adopted by the FDA for electronic exchange of drug information, where EVS is playing a major role providing terminology.
Perhaps our most visible and constant partnership is with the NCI-designated Cancer Centers and other participants in the caBIG™ network. We've partnered with NLM to create and extend the PubMed Cancer Subset and with the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium to develop standard terminology for clinical trial data. We are also working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, providing terminology support for their effort to model electronic health data reporting for cancer registries.
It sounds like a fast-growing enterprise; where do you expect to go in the future?
As we widen our partnerships and integrate with more information systems, we are creating a broader and deeper framework. Building scientific knowledge into the ontology layer of NCI Thesaurus and working with other groups on shared approaches can help make this possible. EVS has a built-in user community with caBIG™, and their needs and priorities continue to push us in new directions. Our growing collaborations on drug terminology led us to craft the NCI Drug Dictionary as a terminology-based resource with extensive information on both approved and investigational drugs. We need to expand this kind of public information outreach into other areas, such as our current and detailed NCI Thesaurus disease ontology, which offers a unique resource on the current classification of cancers.