Pharma R&D Today
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Taxonomy to answers
Posted on December 1st, 2015 by Thibault Geoui in Pharma R&D
What is a Taxonomy?
A taxonomy is a system to classify objects or concepts. We all use such systems to bring order into different aspects of our lives, be it food in the refrigerator, clothes in the closet or files on our laptops. Our systems help us maintain an overview of multiple objects or concepts and, more practically, they help us to quickly find any item we need if it has been appropriately classified. So, for example, you can scan sock colors to match an outfit by opening your sock drawer, but you might not find your bathing suit if you hung it up with your winter coats.
While having an organizational scheme for a handful of items is useful, such classification systems become imperative for compilations of thousands to millions of items, such as in a database. Tracking large data volumes is impossible without organization and a database lacking taxonomy has little value because individual data points cannot be easily found.
Without some organizational structure, you have to look through every item until you find data of interest. Add a simple organization, like listing items alphabetically, and you can more efficiently find pertinent data. Superimpose a second classification scheme, like overarching categories, and you reduce your search time further because data appear in shorter alphabetical lists under relevant categories.
The benefit of taxonomies is quite obvious, but their impact on the usability of a database is far-reaching. More than make it easy to find a desired item, an expertly designed taxonomy embedded in a fitting database structure translates a user query into insightful results, unfolds the complete depth and breadth of a data repository, and maintains a database up to date. But, how?
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