XX.2 Support for Multi-Site Collaborative Research

A common API for Application Hosting facilitates multi-site research.

Site-specific problems : The development of molecular imaging applications can be accelerated with multiple site cooperation in the validation of new algorithms and software. However, the run-time environment and tools available at one site typically are not matched identically at other sites, hampering the sharing of applications between sites. Using the same tools allows them to share applications. One cannot simply take an application written at one of these sites, and make it run on the other site without major software work involving the installation and configuration of multiple tool packages. Even after installing the needed tools and libraries, software developed at one site may be trying to access facilities that are unavailable at the other site, for example, facilities to store, access, and organize the image data. Often the data formats applications from one site are expecting are incompatible with the data formats available at other sites. Having a standard API could help minimize these data incompatibilities.

Gap between research and clinical environments : The initial versions of agent-specific applications are typically created in a research environment, and are not easily accessible in the clinical environment. The early experimental work generally is done by exporting the image data out of the clinical environment to research workstations, and then importing the results back into the clinical system once the analysis is done. While exporting and importing the images may be sufficient for the early research work, clinical acceptance of an application can be significant enhanced if that application could run in the same clinical environment where the images are collected, in order to better fit into the clinical workflow.

The problem of mismatched run time environments becomes even more acute when attempting to run the typical research application on a production clinical workstation. Due to a variety of legal and commercial concerns, vendors of the systems utilized in the clinical environment generally do not support running unknown software, nor do most commercial vendors have the time or resources to assist the hundreds of researchers who may wish to port a particular application to that vendor's system. Even if researchers manage to load an experimental program onto a clinical system, the experimental program rarely has direct access to the data stored on that clinical system, nor can it directly store results back into the system’s clinical database. Without a single standard interface, users have to resort to the cumbersome and time-consuming export and input routines to be able to run research programs on clinical data. It is expected that the constrained environment that a standard API provides would be simpler to validate, particularly if it is universally deployed by multiple vendors, and could lessen the burden on any individual system vendor.