SOA for the scientific community – a practical example

I was intrigued to discover a discussion paper from the University of Southampton in the UK about how SOA is helping the scientific community.

The paper, entitled ‘A Collaborative Orthopaedic Research Environment’, describes how SOA has been used to enable a Virtual Research Environment for orthopaedic researchers to collaborate in the design, analysis and dissemination of experiments.

What I found most interesting were the reasons for using SOA as the base architecture for this environment. The key objective, based on input from the specialists who will use the system, was to provide an easy way to share scientific data and results from collaborative research. However, it was deemed essential that the system could also evolve based on the changing requirements of the user community. One example of change that the paper gives is that of knowing which of a wide range of protocols will be followed for a particular clinical trial. Not only do these vary considerably, but it appears they are also susceptible to changes in regulations.

The solution decided to utilize a coarse level of services, essentially using just four – to manage the trial-related data, analyse it, submit and disseminate related research articles and support discussion forums. However, through the reliance on SOA, these services are flexible and extensible, making it much easier to address the changing needs of this particular scientific discipline. In addition, the services are reusable, and some could therefore be usable for other scientific areas.

It’s good to see SOA being used to effectively address clear user needs in this way.