National Library of Medicine opens application portal

New website gives developers and the public access to software tools to unlock data

The National Library of Medicine has created a new website to promote software applications that allow developers and the public to tap into the library’s resources more broadly and effectively.

The website offers application programming interface (API) tools for interacting with the library’s most popular databases and search engines, including ClinicalTrials.gov and Medline Plus.

An API is a set of routines that an application uses to request and execute lower-level services performed by a computer's operating system. For example, an API may manage an application's windows, icons, menus and dialog boxes. The availability of APIs makes it easier for developers to create mashups that funnel in data from a number of databases.


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The goal of the new API portal is to advance open government objectives to make more federal data available and transparent, as well as encourage the creation of new applications to make it easier to access the data via mobile devices and Web platforms, according to Todd Park, chief technology officer for the Health and Human Services Department.

“These APIs represent a set of tools that amp up the power of National Library of Medicine resources by enabling other websites and applications to interact directly with them,” Park wrote on the HHS open government blog on Sept. 21.

“The practical benefit of these APIs is that they enable developers to build supercool applications that can tap the National Library of Medicine’s vast consumer health information repositories, research databases, and search engines.”

For example, the API for Medline Plus enables applications to access Medline Plus data in Extensible Markup Language (XML) format.

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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