September 9-10, 2021
Virtual Workshop


The goal of this workshop was to advance the development and adoption of environmental health language standards through the formation of a sustained community effort. In this interactive workshop, participants were charged to “think together” on two themes:

  1. Build a Sustainable Community: Obtain agreement on the proposed Environmental Health Language Collaborative’s mission, community model, and strategy to build an impactful community.
  2. Develop Solutions: Define use cases in environmental health sciences research and begin identifying semantic needs, gaps, and strategies for implementing solutions.


The generation of environmental health science (EHS) data continues to increase at an exponential rate. Leveraging this data to answer large-scale complex research questions is a challenge today and will continue to be as increasingly new methods arise and sophisticated statistical and machine learning approaches are adopted and automated.

A primary goal of the NIEHS Strategic Plan is to support Data to Knowledge to Action – the translational cascade from research results into a collective body of knowledge that ultimately informs and supports public health action. The development of innovative data science and data-driven approaches is integral to this goal for EHS specifically, and health initiatives generally.

An essential component to creating knowledge from data is to describe data with a harmonized language. Applying a harmonized language to environmental health data enhances its value by enabling consistent classification of data, increasing interoperability of databases, and promoting data sharing, reuse, and reanalysis; thereby, accelerating the pace of scientific discovery in EHS research.

To address this challenge, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) seeks to foster a community-driven initiative to advance integrative environmental health research by developing and promoting adoption of a harmonized language. This initiative is based on work begun at an NIEHS-sponsored September 2014 workshop on Laying a Community-Based Foundation for Data-driven Semantic Standards in Environmental Health Sciences and will leverage additional work achieved at the Computable Exposome Workshop.


If you have questions about the initiative, community, or the workshop, please contact Stephanie Holmgren, Office of Data Science.

Virtual Workshop: Catalyzing Knowledge-driven Discovery in Environmental Health Sciences Through a Harmonized Language

Day 1: September 9, 2021

Day 2: September 10, 2021

Virtual Pre-workshop: The Value of Creating Language and Community in Catalyzing Knowledge-driven Discovery in Environmental Health Research

The goal of this workshop is to provide attendees with the context for embarking on this community initiative to develop and adopt a harmonized EHS language and to lay the foundation for how the community can come together.

Virtual Pre-workshop: A Primer on Using Terminologies, Vocabularies, and Ontologies for Knowledge Organization

The goal of this workshop is to provide attendees with sufficient starting knowledge to understand the different knowledge organization systems (especially ontologies), when to use them, where to find them, and how to apply them.