Formal Ontology for Natural Language Processing and the Integration of Biomedical Databases

International Journal of Medical Informatics 75 (3-4):224-231 (2005)
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The central hypothesis of the collaboration between Language and Computing (L&C) and the Institute for Formal Ontology and Medical Information Science (IFOMIS) is that the methodology and conceptual rigor of a philosophically inspired formal ontology greatly benefits application ontologies. To this end r®, L&C’s ontology, which is designed to integrate and reason across various external databases simultaneously, has been submitted to the conceptual demands of IFOMIS’s Basic Formal Ontology (BFO). With this project we aim to move beyond the level of controlled vocabularies to yield an ontology with the ability to support reasoning applications. Our general procedure has been the implementation of a meta-ontological definition space in which the definitions of all the concepts and relations in LinKBase® are standardized in a framework of first-order logic. In this paper we describe how this standardization has already led to an improvement in the LinKBase® structure that allows for a greater degree of internal coherence than ever before possible. We then show the use of this philosophical standardization for the purpose of mapping external databases to one another, using LinKBase® as translation hub, with a greater degree of success than possible hitherto. We demonstrate how this offers a genuine advance over other application ontologies that have not submitted themselves to the demands of philosophical scrutiny. LinKBase® is one of the world’s largest applications-oriented medical domain ontologies, and BFO is one of the world’s first philosophically driven reference ontologies. The collaboration of the two thus initiates a new phase in the quest to solve the so-called “Tower of Babel”.

Author Profiles

Barry Smith
University at Buffalo
Jonathan Simon
Université de Montréal


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