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BMC Bioinformatics. 2011 Aug 5;12:325. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-12-325.

How the gene ontology evolves.

Author information

1
ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter, EX4 4PJ Exeter, UK. s.leonelli@exeter.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Maintaining a bio-ontology in the long term requires improving and updating its contents so that it adequately captures what is known about biological phenomena. This paper illustrates how these processes are carried out, by studying the ways in which curators at the Gene Ontology have hitherto incorporated new knowledge into their resource.

RESULTS:

Five types of circumstances are singled out as warranting changes in the ontology: (1) the emergence of anomalies within GO; (2) the extension of the scope of GO; (3) divergence in how terminology is used across user communities; (4) new discoveries that change the meaning of the terms used and their relations to each other; and (5) the extension of the range of relations used to link entities or processes described by GO terms.

CONCLUSION:

This study illustrates the difficulties involved in applying general standards to the development of a specific ontology. Ontology curation aims to produce a faithful representation of knowledge domains as they keep developing, which requires the translation of general guidelines into specific representations of reality and an understanding of how scientific knowledge is produced and constantly updated. In this context, it is important that trained curators with technical expertise in the scientific field(s) in question are involved in supervising ontology shifts and identifying inaccuracies.

PMID:
21819553
PMCID:
PMC3166943
DOI:
10.1186/1471-2105-12-325
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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