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J Biomed Inform. 2006 Jun;39(3):299-306. Epub 2005 Dec 9.

In defense of the Desiderata.

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Department of Biomedical Informatic, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


A 1998 paper that delineated desirable characteristics, or desiderata for controlled medical terminologies attempted to summarize emerging consensus regarding structural issues of such terminologies. Among the Desiderata was a call for terminologies to be "concept oriented." Since then, research has trended toward the extension of terminologies into ontologies. A paper by Smith, entitled "From Concepts to Clinical Reality: An Essay on the Benchmarking of Biomedical Terminologies" urges a realist approach that seeks terminologies composed of universals, rather than concepts. The current paper addresses issues raised by Smith and attempts to extend the Desiderata, not away from concepts, but towards recognition that concepts and universals must both be embraced and can coexist peaceably in controlled terminologies. To that end, additional Desiderata are defined that deal with the purpose, rather than the structure, of controlled medical terminologies.

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