Data integration is key to functional and comparative genomics because integration allows diverse data types to be evaluated in new contexts. To achieve data integration in a scalable and sensible way, semantic standards are needed, both for naming things (standardized nomenclatures, use of key words) and also for knowledge representation. The Mouse Genome Informatics database and other model organism databases help to close the gap between information and understanding of biological processes because these resources enforce well-defined nomenclature and knowledge representation standards. Model organism databases have a critical role to play in ensuring that diverse kinds of data, especially genome-scale data sets and information, remain useful to the biological community in the long-term. The efforts of model organism database groups ensure not only that organism-specific data are integrated, curated and accessible but also that the information is structured in such a way that comparison of biological knowledge across model organisms is facilitated.