We compare two distinct approaches for querying data in the context of the life sciences. The first approach utilizes conventional databases to store the data and provides intuitive form-based interfaces to facilitate querying of the data, commonly used by the life science researchers that we study. The second approach utilizes a large OWL ontology and the same datasets associated as RDF instances of the ontology. Both approaches are being used in parallel by a team of cell biologists in their daily research activities, with the objective of gradually replacing the conventional approach with the knowledge-driven one. We describe several benefits of the knowledge-driven approach in comparison to the traditional one, and highlight a few limitations. We believe that our analysis not only explicitly highlights the benefits and limitations of semantic Web technologies in the context of life sciences but also contributes toward effective ways of translating a question in a researcher's mind into precise queries with the intent of obtaining effective answers.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/priti_parikh/17/