The Virtual Physiological Human ToolKit – Evolution and Sustainability
Jonathan Cooper‚ John Fenner‚ Keith McCormack‚ David Gavaghan and Peter Coveney
The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) ToolKit is a technical and methodological framework to support and enable VPH research – the collaborative investigation of the human body as a single complex system. The aim is to achieve this goal through the creation, accumulation, and curation of VPH research-related ‘capacities’ – the integration of existing work, and its further development towards greater interoperability. The VPH Toolkit concept is evolving, as members of the VPH Network of Excellence (VPH-NoE) begin to appreciate both the scale of the task and the issues that must be addressed for a sustainable future. The ToolKit is certainly not intended merely to be a collection of isolated tools used by VPH researchers and clinicians, nor can it be a single monolithic entity capable of fulfilling the needs of all users; the latter is impossible, and the former has little impact or utility. In contrast, the ToolKit must evolve into a curated set of tools that are sufficiently usable, flexible, and interoperable that they can be configured and connected by researchers to provide a range of practical and user-friendly solutions for clinicians and biomedical researchers, instead of starting from scratch for each new use-case. This challenging goal imposes requirements on ToolKit development, and requires the involvement of the wider VPH community, in particular all current and future projects funded under the VPH Initiative (VPH-I), since the VPH-NoE does not have the resources to achieve this vision by itself. These groups must work together to promote development practices that can achieve mutually beneficial goals and lead to long-term sustainability of the resources produced. This paper describes the evolving approach to the ToolKit. The ways in which the approach to content provision is adapting to the needs of users are considered, taking into account the need for sustainability beyond the life of the VPH-NoE. To this end a process of standardisation is being introduced, to ensure high-quality ToolKit contributions and involving the development and publication of formalised guidelines for submissions, adherence to which will ensure that content can provide maximum utility to other users. Working Groups drawn from VPH-NoE partners are being formed to further this approach.