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Brief Bioinform. 2013 Nov;14(6):696-712. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbs053. Epub 2012 Sep 8.

Evaluation of research in biomedical ontologies.

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  • 1Department of Computer Science, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DB, UK.


Ontologies are now pervasive in biomedicine, where they serve as a means to standardize terminology, to enable access to domain knowledge, to verify data consistency and to facilitate integrative analyses over heterogeneous biomedical data. For this purpose, research on biomedical ontologies applies theories and methods from diverse disciplines such as information management, knowledge representation, cognitive science, linguistics and philosophy. Depending on the desired applications in which ontologies are being applied, the evaluation of research in biomedical ontologies must follow different strategies. Here, we provide a classification of research problems in which ontologies are being applied, focusing on the use of ontologies in basic and translational research, and we demonstrate how research results in biomedical ontologies can be evaluated. The evaluation strategies depend on the desired application and measure the success of using an ontology for a particular biomedical problem. For many applications, the success can be quantified, thereby facilitating the objective evaluation and comparison of research in biomedical ontology. The objective, quantifiable comparison of research results based on scientific applications opens up the possibility for systematically improving the utility of ontologies in biomedical research.


biomedical ontology; evaluation criteria; ontology evaluation; ontology-based applications; quantitative biology

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