Building an Open Representation for Biological Protocols

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Laboratory protocols are critical to biological research and development, yet difficult to communicate and reproduce across projects, investigators, and organizations. While many attempts have been made to address this challenge, there is currently no available protocol representation that is unambiguous enough for precise interpretation and automation, yet simultaneously abstract enough to enable reuse and adaptation. The Protocol Activity Markup Language (PAML) is a free and open protocol representation aiming to address this gap, building on a foundation of UML, Autoprotocol, and SBOL RDF. PAML provides a representation both for protocols and for records of their execution and the resulting data, as well as a framework for exporting from PAML for execution by either humans or laboratory automation. PAML is currently implemented in the form of an RDF knowledge representation, specification document, and Python library, can be exported for execution as either a manual “paper protocol” or Autoprotocol, and is being further developed as an open community effort.

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