BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making (Nov 2018)

X-search: an open access interface for cross-cohort exploration of the National Sleep Research Resource

  • Licong Cui,
  • Ningzhou Zeng,
  • Matthew Kim,
  • Remo Mueller,
  • Emily R. Hankosky,
  • Susan Redline,
  • Guo-Qiang Zhang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 1
pp. 1 – 10


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Abstract Background The National Sleep Research Resource (NSRR) is a large-scale, openly shared, data repository of de-identified, highly curated clinical sleep data from multiple NIH-funded epidemiological studies. Although many data repositories allow users to browse their content, few support fine-grained, cross-cohort query and exploration at study-subject level. We introduce a cross-cohort query and exploration system, called X-search, to enable researchers to query patient cohort counts across a growing number of completed, NIH-funded studies in NSRR and explore the feasibility or likelihood of reusing the data for research studies. Methods X-search has been designed as a general framework with two loosely-coupled components: semantically annotated data repository and cross-cohort exploration engine. The semantically annotated data repository is comprised of a canonical data dictionary, data sources with a data dictionary, and mappings between each individual data dictionary and the canonical data dictionary. The cross-cohort exploration engine consists of five modules: query builder, graphical exploration, case-control exploration, query translation, and query execution. The canonical data dictionary serves as the unified metadata to drive the visual exploration interfaces and facilitate query translation through the mappings. Results X-search is publicly available at nine NSRR datasets consisting of over 26,000 unique subjects. The canonical data dictionary contains over 900 common data elements across the datasets. X-search has received over 1800 cross-cohort queries by users from 16 countries. Conclusions X-search provides a powerful cross-cohort exploration interface for querying and exploring heterogeneous datasets in the NSRR data repository, so as to enable researchers to evaluate the feasibility of potential research studies and generate potential hypotheses using the NSRR data.