What is ToxML?

ToxML defines a standard schema in xml format for exchanging toxicological and related data, including chemical structures. It is wide ranging but allows you to use just the part of it that is relevant to the particular dataset you want to communicate. It allows diverse organisations using different database systems and platforms to exchange data. It is a way of exporting/importing data while still using your own preferred data structure and terms locally - i.e. it is a data exchange standard, not a database standard. It is developed through a community wiki site, so that rapid, apposite extensions can be made as needs arise.

Who is ToxML for?

The people involved with ToxML at a technical level are software developers and database support staff needing to provide for exchange of toxicological and related data. They benefit by having access to a pre-defined framework with ready-made components and a straightforward mechanism for adding to them.
Creators and end-users of data - toxicologists, chemists, regulatory affairs staff, and others - benefit from being able to export data in a form that colleagues can import easily into their computer applications, and vice versa.

Why is a standard needed?

If, say, ten organisations want to exchange toxicogical data on a one-to-one basis, each pair of organisations will need to agree on the format to be used. That would involve specification work for forty-five interfaces. If there is a standard that can act as the intermediary, each organisation needs only an interface to that standard - one each; ten interfaces instead of forty-five and each one under the control of a single organisation. Data in the intermediary format can be delivered to any number of collaborators without modification.

Why choose the ToxML standard?

One problem with standards that are defined and maintained by committees in the traditional way, is that they are slow to create and subsequently slow to extend. Toxicology presents an extreme example of why this matters. The potential number of data fields is huge. To standardise the names of all currently known ones and the relationships between them would take many years. Much effort might be wasted on fields that turned out in practice to be rarely, if ever, used. Meanwhile urgent, existing requirements would be delayed and new requirements that came along would not be covered.
The ToxML standard grows on the basis of need. Suppose one organisation wants to send data to another and ToxML does not cover that data, or only partially covers it. The ToxML wiki allows them to add a new component. They can go ahead forthwith using that component. In parallel, it can rapidly be reviewed by other potential users, approved, and incorporated into the formal standard. The original pair of organisations does not have to wait for a committee to draw up an extension to the standard; other organisations can start to make use of it informally straight away; it is nevertheless reviewed before formal adoption and so if there were weaknesses in the design they can be addressed; extensions are made when, and only when, they are needed - effort is not wasted on components that will not be used in practice.

What is the point of contributing?

If you plan to exchange data with someone, you will have to agree a format with them. You might as well set it up as part of ToxML, both as a donation to scientific collaboration and in order to get what you need the way you want it in the standard. It involves no extra input of resources - you and the person you are exchanging data with simply use the ToxML forum and working draft as a convenient communication route.
Collaborators building the standard reduce their collective effort since there will be many cases where they have the same or closely-similar requirements. The job is done once instead of being repeated many times by organisations in isolation.