The BIOM format is designed for general use in broad areas of comparative -omics. For example, in marker-gene surveys, the primary use of this format is to represent OTU tables: the observations in this case are OTUs and the matrix contains counts corresponding to the number of times each OTU is observed in each sample. With respect to metagenome data, this format would be used to represent metagenome tables: the observations in this case might correspond to SEED subsystems, and the matrix would contain counts corresponding to the number of times each subsystem is observed in each metagenome. Similarly, with respect to genome data, this format may be used to represent a set of genomes: the observations in this case again might correspond to SEED subsystems, and the counts would correspond to the number of times each subsystem is observed in each genome.
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The Biological Observation Matrix (BIOM) format or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the ome-ome.
Daniel McDonald, Jose C. Clemente, Justin Kuczynski, Jai Ram Rideout, Jesse Stombaugh, Doug Wendel, Andreas Wilke, Susan Huse, John Hufnagle, Folker Meyer, Rob Knight, and J. Gregory Caporaso.
GigaScience 2012, 1:7 doi:10.1186/2047-217X-1-7