As we must all realize from living in the information age, there is no question that databases are playing a very important and essential role in life science research these days. We have managed to accumulate vast amounts of data over the last several decades, which include information regarding the structures of major biological molecules such as DNA and proteins, the expression patterns of genes under various biological conditions, the distribution of metabolites in a variety of cells and tissues, and the patterns of regional biological activities responding to stimuli in complex tissues such as the brain, just to name a few examples. These are, of course, the results of technological breakthroughs in analyzing and collecting information in various fields of the life sciences. The volume of these data has been increasing exponentially, and the application and utilization of the growing database is now expanding from basic biological research to more practical areas of interest such as medicine and agriculture.
In Japan, we have dozens of databases concerning life science research, which are considered to be of high value in regards to the accuracy, reliability, and comprehensive quality of the content data. Unfortunately, each database is more or less isolated from the others, without the likely benefits of interconnecting systems or cross-referencing mechanisms. This is probably due to the historical fact that each database was designed and is run by independent agencies under different administrations. Needless to say, life sciences and its more practical applications have evolved and developed rapidly to become a large and integrated entity that exchanges information using the same terminologies and shares common interests in terms of subject content.
Under these circumstances, the National Bioscience Database Center (NBDC), supported by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, was formally inaugurated in April of 2011. The mandate of NBDC is quite clear. Its intention is to integrate all databases for life sciences in Japan by linking each database with expediency to maximize convenience and make the entire system more user-friendly. We aim to focus our attention on the needs of the users of these databases, who have all too often been neglected in the past, rather than the needs of the people tasked with the creation of databases. It is important to note that we will continue to honor the independent integrity of each database ontributing to our endeavor, as we are fully aware that each database was originally crafted for specific purposes and divergent goals.
As is the case when planning any important and comprehensive endeavor we can foresee a number of challenges ahead, but it is my firm belief as the Director of this new organization that the success of the NBDC is essential and will greatly contribute to the progress of life sciences, not only in Japan but also on a global scale. I sincerely appreciate your support and understanding of our efforts to make information more accessible to all and to share in the wealth of knowledge.