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The electronic form of this document may be cited in the following style:
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE Human Genome Program Contractor-Grantee Workshop IV, 1994.
Abstracts scanned from text submitted for November 1994 DOE Human Genome Program Contractor-Grantee Workshop. Inaccuracies have not been corrected.
Automatic Generation of User Interfaces for Genomic Databases
Manfred D. Zorn, Shirdi R. Prem, and Ofer Ben-Shachar 
Software Technologies and Applications Group, Information and Computing Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley CA 94720
 Software Xcellence, Palo Alto, CA
Databases for genomic data are subject to continuing evolution to cope with scientific advances. Modifications in the database definition invariably trigger changes in the user interface. Thus a significant effort is spent in constantly adapting the database to new requirements and the user interface to the modified database definition. To break this vicious cycle we have developed a user interface that is automatically generated from the database definition, i.e., the metadata.
A generic user interface guides the user through a standard flow of actions, from object selection and query formation to viewing the details of an object and following connections to linked objects. A plain text configuration file read upon program start-up provides information for a specific database, e.g., names of objects, attributes, labels, thus customizing the generic interface for a particular application. This creates an object-oriented view of a relational database implemented using an Extended Entity Relationship model.
The configuration file has been automatically created from the metadata. It defines object appearance in the user interface, defines mappers that translate between the database representation of objects and the interface representation, database specific help, and provides for extensive user customizing. In addition, the configuration file defines stored procedures that retrieve data from the database. These procedures are generated from metadata using a query language, Complex Object Query Language (COQL), based on the same Extended Entity Relationship model that has been used in the database design. COQL queries are subsequently translated into SQL procedures.
Thus a working user interface, i.e., static layout of buttons and fields, data retrieval from the database, data conversion between the database output and the user interface data structures, is automatically generated from the database definitions. Modifications are propagated by simply regenerating the interface. This approach, originally developed for the Chromosome Information System, has been applied to an image database, and several other databases.
We will present the current state of the user interface and tools to aide in defining and manipulating the configuration file.
This work was supported by the Director, Office of Energy Research, Office of Health and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program, of the US Department of Energy under Contract no. DE-AC03-76SF00098.