APE in the Wild: Automated Exploration of Proteomics Workflows in the bio.tools Registry

Vedran Kasalica*, Veit Schwämmle, Magnus Palmblad, Jon Ison, Anna Lena Lamprecht*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The bio.tools registry is a main catalogue of computational tools in the life sciences. More than 17 »000 tools have been registered by the international bioinformatics community. The bio.tools metadata schema includes semantic annotations of tool functions, that is, formal descriptions of tools' data types, formats, and operations with terms from the EDAM bioinformatics ontology. Such annotations enable the automated composition of tools into multistep pipelines or workflows. In this Technical Note, we revisit a previous case study on the automated composition of proteomics workflows. We use the same four workflow scenarios but instead of using a small set of tools with carefully handcrafted annotations, we explore workflows directly on bio.tools. We use the Automated Pipeline Explorer (APE), a reimplementation and extension of the workflow composition method previously used. Moving "into the wild"opens up an unprecedented wealth of tools and a huge number of alternative workflows. Automated composition tools can be used to explore this space of possibilities systematically. Inevitably, the mixed quality of semantic annotations in bio.tools leads to unintended or erroneous tool combinations. However, our results also show that additional control mechanisms (tool filters, configuration options, and workflow constraints) can effectively guide the exploration toward smaller sets of more meaningful workflows.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of proteome research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)2157–2165
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2020 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.


  • automated workflow composition
  • computational pipelines
  • proteomics
  • scientific workflows
  • semantic tool annotation
  • workflow exploration


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