Knowledge Engineering for Health is an emerging new discipline (distinct from research and medicine) that will be key in enabling societies to bridge the major 'ICT Gap' that exists between research bioinformatics and medical informatics (eHealth) activities. It requires a new class of experts with skill sets that cut across health, science and information technology, with an emphasis on knowledge engineering.

The need for these engineers in connecting health and research is becoming apparent. Consider the analogy of a bridge for crossing a ravine: materials scientists must define the properties of materials in the bridge, and transport providers will use the bridge. But it is the engineers that use the scientists' data to build the bridge so that items can be transported across the gap. Similarly, new insights (produced by research and healthcare activities) needs to be transferred and used by the other of these two domains, but that transport cannot and will not happen effectively until knowledge engineers get trained, involved, and funded to build the necessary communication bridges.

This is an absolute requirement if we are to enable the real-world emergence of routine personalised medicine!

Successful health knowledge engineering might be expected to intelligently locate, distil, and repurpose all the key biomedical knowledge, framed in the specific context of a probabilistic ‘health avatar’ for each patient. This can then be made suitably available to doctors, the public and many other stakeholders, in a real-time and multi-lingual format and mode that they can use. Simultaneously, the system would need to make EHR data appropriately available for research utilisation, thus creating a virtuous circle from latest discoveries through to healthcare application such that the clinical impact is fed back into research. Consequently, the system will be self optimising, leading ultimately to the full realisation of personalised medicine.

The I4Health Network seeks to define and promote the concept and the methods of Knowledge Engineering for Health, to properly connect research and medicine once and for all.

Knowledge Engineering for Health is described in detail in: Knowledge engineering for health: A new discipline required to bridge the "ICT gap" between research and healthcare. Beck T, Gollapudi S, Brunak S, Graf N, Lemke HU, Dash D, Buchan I, Díaz C, Sanz F, Brookes AJ. 2012. Hum Mutat. 33(5):797-802. PubMed