Project summary

The data explosion in life sciences and health care requires a terminological standardization. For this purpose, hundreds of heterogenous terminologies and classification systems have been created. In recent years, there has been the tendency to describe such systems by means of mathematical logic in consideration of principles of formal ontology. Examples are the Open Biological Ontologies or SNOMED CT. It is, however, controversial whether the additional effort arising from this is balanced by a substantial benefit.

We want to develop ontological principles for the formal representation of generic (functional and dysfunctional) life processes like biomedical events, conditions, processes and functions, and remodel content of the Gene Ontology and SNOMED CT, building on existing top level ontologies like BFO and BioTop.

The modelling principles shall be exemplified by numerous examples from the domains of medicine and biology and transposed into guidelines for ontology developers. By doing so, the expedience of an ontology-based domain structuring shall be examined empirically. By means of concrete modelling tasks to be performed parallely by domain experts, the standardization benefit shall be quantified on the basis of consistency parameters, thereby enabling a controlled evaluation of the guideline.

The project is being funded by a generous grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) from 2010 to 2013. The project consists of two co-operating research groups: one from Philosophy in Rostock and one from Medical Information Science in Freiburg.