Investigating subsumption in DL-based terminologies: A case study in SNOMED CT

In Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Formal Biomedical Knowledge Representation (KR-MED 2004). pp. 12-20 (2004)
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Formalisms such as description logics (DL) are sometimes expected to help terminologies ensure compliance with sound ontological principles. The objective of this paper is to study the degree to which one DL-based biomedical terminology (SNOMED CT) complies with such principles. We defined seven ontological principles (for example: each class must have at least one parent, each class must differ from its parent) and examined the properties of SNOMED CT classes with respect to these principles. Our major results are: 31% of the classes have a single child; 27% have multiple parents; 51% do not exhibit any differentiae between the description of the parent and that of the child. The applications of this study to quality assurance for ontologies are discussed and suggestions are made for dealing with multiple inheritance.

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Barry Smith
State University of New York, Buffalo


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