Building a bioinformatics ontology using OIL

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    This paper describes the initial stages of building an ontology of bioinformatics and molecular biology. The conceptualization is encoded using the ontology inference layer (OIL), a knowledge representation language that combines the modeling style of frame-based systems with the expressiveness and reasoning power of description logics (DLs). This paper is the second of a pair in this special issue. The first described the core of the OIL language and the need to use ontologies to deliver semantic bioinformatics resources. In this paper, the early stages of building an ontology component of a bioinformatics resource querying application are described. This ontology (TaO) holds the information about molecular biology represented in bioinformatics resources and the bioinformatics tasks performed over these resources. It, therefore, represents the metadata of the resources the application can query. It also manages the terminologies used in constructing the query plans used to retrieve instances from those external resources. The methodology used in this task capitalizes upon features of OIL-The conceptualization afforded by the frame-based view of OIL's syntax; the expressive power and reasoning of the logical formalism; and the ability to encode both handcrafted, hierarchies of concepts, as well as defining concepts in terms of their properties, which can then be used to establish a classification and infer relationships not encoded by the ontologist. This ability forms the basis of the methodology described here: For each portion of the TaO, a basic framework of concepts is asserted by the ontologist. Then, the properties of these concepts are defined by the ontologist and the logic's reasoning power used to reclassify and infer further relationships. This cycle of elaboration and refinement is iterated on each portion of the ontology until a satisfactory ontology has been created.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-141
    Number of pages6
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2002


    • Bioinformatics
    • Concepts
    • Molecular biology
    • Necessity
    • Ontology
    • Ontology inference layer (OIL)
    • Properties
    • Reasoning
    • Sufficiency
    • Transparent access to multiple bioinformatics information sources (TAMBIS)


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