DOI: 10.3390/metabo13080941 ISSN:

SMetaS: A Sample Metadata Standardizer for Metabolomics

Parker Ladd Bremer, Oliver Fiehn
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

Metabolomics has advanced to an extent where it is desired to standardize and compare data across individual studies. While past work in standardization has focused on data acquisition, data processing, and data storage aspects, metabolomics databases are useless without ontology-based descriptions of biological samples and study designs. We introduce here a user-centric tool to automatically standardize sample metadata. Using such a tool in frontends for metabolomic databases will dramatically increase the FAIRness (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability) of data, specifically for data reuse and for finding datasets that share comparable sets of metadata, e.g., study meta-analyses, cross-species analyses or large scale metabolomic atlases. SMetaS (Sample Metadata Standardizer) combines a classic database with an API and frontend and is provided in a containerized environment. The tool has two user-centric components. In the first component, the user designs a sample metadata matrix and fills the cells using natural language terminology. In the second component, the tool transforms the completed matrix by replacing freetext terms with terms from fixed vocabularies. This transformation process is designed to maximize simplicity and is guided by, among other strategies, synonym matching and typographical fixing in an n-grams/nearest neighbors model approach. The tool enables downstream analysis of submitted studies and samples via string equality for FAIR retrospective use.

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