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Comput Biol Med. 2006 Jul-Aug;36(7-8):674-93. Epub 2005 Sep 6.

Law and order: assessing and enforcing compliance with ontological modeling principles in the Foundational Model of Anatomy.

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U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The objective of this study is to provide an operational definition of principles with which well-formed ontologies should comply. We define 15 such principles, related to classification (e.g., no hierarchical cycles are allowed; concepts have a reasonable number of children), incompatible relationships (e.g., two concepts cannot stand both in a taxonomic and partitive relation), dependence among concepts, and the co-dependence of equivalent sets of relations. Implicit relations--embedded in concept names or inferred from a combination of explicit relations--are used in this process in addition to the relations explicitly represented. As a case study, we investigate the degree to which the Foundational Model of Anatomy (FMA)--a large ontology of anatomy--complies with these 15 principles. The FMA succeeds in complying with all the principles: totally with one and mostly with the others. Reasons for non-compliance are analyzed and suggestions are made for implementing effective enforcement mechanisms in ontology development environments. The limitations of this study are also discussed.

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