Ontology Modules

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The modules below are designed for use in teaching ontology to multidisciplinary audiences in domains such as government and administration, military and biomedical informatics. The content derives initially from the course "PHI:531 Problems in Ontology" taught in the University at Buffalo in the fall of 2012. However, it will be continually expanded and up-dated where necessary.

Link to: Streaming Video Ontology Training Courses

General Ontology

Barry Smith: Introduction to Ontology (2012) Slides

Provides a basic introduction to ontology by addressing questions such as: What is an ontology? What are the differences and interrelations between ontology (philosophy), ontology (science), and ontology (engineering)? How are ontologies used? We will also provide an introduction to Basic Formal Ontology (BFO), focusing on a discussion of the question: What is a musical score?

Werner Ceusters (Bioinformatics/Psychiatry): Particulars in Focus Slides

Referent Tracking (RT) is a methodology to create digital copies of the parts of the world we are interested in. It is based on Basic Formal Ontology, but focuses on particulars rather than universals. The goal is to create information systems in such a way that (1) the information they contain mimics the structure of the corresponding portions of reality and (2) they can make optimal use of ontologies and terminologies.

Basic Formal Ontology

Ontology of Mind

Mental Functioning Ontology

Janna Hastings (Swiss Center for Affective Sciences and European Bioinformatics Institute): Representing Mental Functioning Hastings Slides

Mental functioning includes all the faculties of the mind, e.g., perception, planning, language, memory, emotion, and self-representation. The study of these processes cuts across disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, and biomedicine. The Mental Functioning Ontology (MFO) is designed to provide a means for the common description of data in all of these disciplines, in order to support data aggregation and comparison. For background material see here (slides) and here (papers).

Barry Smith: Mental Functioning and the Ontology of Language Slides

Addresses those kinds of mental functioning which involve overt or covert use of language focusing especially on the issue of the directedness of thought and language to extra-mental objects.

Barry Smith: How To Do Things With Diagrams Slides

Explores some of the ways in which the theory of speech acts can throw light on the role of diagrams and of diagrammatic symbologies in areas such as chess, music, chemistry and military planning. The ontology of processes and process representations plays a central role.

Barry Smith: Ontology and the Austrian Tradition Slides

A discussion of the theory of intentionality (or the directedness of mental processes), and of the roots of this theory in the philosophy of the Brentano school in Austria. Continues the discussions initiated on September 24 of how mental processes are interrelated in different ways with linguistic processes (for example of speaking, reading, and silent siloloquy).

Barry Smith: Mental Functioning Ontology and the ICF: A survey of the WHO's Internal Classification of Functioning Slides

  • Audio - to be used together with slides here

Barry Smith: Neuroscience and the Ontology of Mind: A discussion of the mainstream neuroscience approach to mental directedness Slides

  • Video (for first five minutes see slides here)

Information Ontology

Alan Ruttenberg: The Basics of the Information Artifact Ontology

The Information Artifact Ontology (IAO) is an ontology of information entities, originally inspired by needs of the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI) to represent measurement data and other information entities associated with investigations such as reports and protocols. A number of issues that have emerged and we are developing a second version to address these issues.
Basic ideas:
1. information artifacts are about, or are intended to be about, some entity
2. genes are not information artifacts; gene sequences as recorded in computers are information artifacts
3. information artifacts are copyable
4. information artifacts are generically dependent continuants which have concretizations, for example in specifically dependent patterns of ink on a piece of paper or of magnetization on a hard drive.
How can we define the 'is about' relation, which forms the core of IAO? What is the current strategy, and what breaks? What can information artifacts be about? Non-problematic is the case of particulars. Can information artifacts be about types and if so, what does that mean?
What is a copying process - the process that results in a new concretization of an information content entity (ICE)? How is copying defined? Is there a constraint on how complicated the copying process can be it can be considered not as copying but as new creation? What happens when the copying is partial?
How should IAO deal with information artifacts for which the putative topic does not, or might not, exist? Examples are (written) hypotheses, fiction, diagrams of chemical compounds that can't be synthesized, terms such as 'ether' or 'phlogiston' from the history of science, terms such as 'the soup I plan to have for dinner' used in planning.
How can we define information artifacts in order to circumscribe the scope of IAO? What primitives do we need to rely on?Candidates include: intention, communication, (cognitive) mental function, output (of realization of cognitive mental function).
How do we deal with syncategorematica (for example the 'the' and the 'not' in 'the table not beside my bed')?
How do we deal with different encodings of what is putatively the same information artifact, for example resulting from use of different character sets such as ASCII or Unicode?
Background materials

Werner Ceusters: Proposed Definitions of IAO Terms

Ron Rudnicki (CUBRC): A Discussion of Two Information Ontologies

Raw Webex Video

Ontology Evaluation

Fabian Neuhaus (National Institute of Standards and Technologies): Introduction to Ontology Evaluation Slides

Barry Smith: Basic Formal Ontology as a Tool for the Evaluation of Ontologies Paper Slides

A Practical Example: Evaluation of the HL7 RIM Ontology
Relation to OntoClean
Alternatives to BFO
Introduction to BFO

Werner Ceusters: A Realism-Based Approach to the Evaluation of Ontologies Slides

We present a novel methodology for calculating the improvements obtained in successive versions of ontologies, using examples from biomedicine. The theory takes into account changes both in reality itself and in our understanding of this reality. The successful application of the theory rests on the willingness of ontology authors to document changes they make by following a number of simple rules. The theory provides a pathway by which ontology authoring can become a science rather than an art, following principles analogous to those that have fostered the growth of modern evidence-based medicine. Although in this paper we focus on ontologies, the methodology can be generalized to other sorts of terminology-based artifacts, including Electronic Patient Records.

Social Ontology

See here

Biomedical Ontology

Alexander Diehl (Department of Neurology, University at Buffalo): From the Gene Ontology to the Neurological Disease Ontology Slides

The first part of the talk covers the Gene (GO) and Cell Ontologies (CL), covering issues of ontology structure, development, use in annotation, and exploitation for biological research. The second part will cover the Neurological Disease (ND) and Neuropsychological Testing Ontologies (NPT).
  • Background videos:
  • Background Reading
The Gene Ontology Consortium, "Gene Ontology: tool for the unification of biology", Nat Genet. 2000 May; 25(1): 25–29.
Mungall CJ, el al., "Cross-product extensions of the Gene Ontology", J Biomed Inform. 2011 Feb;44(1):80-6.
Hill DP, et al., "Gene Ontology annotations: what they mean and where they come from", BMC Bioinformatics. 2008 Apr 29;9 Suppl 5:S2.
Meehan TF, et al., "Logical development of the cell ontology", BMC Bioinformatics. 2011 Jan 5;12:6.
Cox AP, et al., "Ontologies for the study of neurological disease", ICBO 2012.
Glossary of biological terms
The Infectious Disease Ontology (IDO)
  • 1.OGMS: The Ontology for General Medical Science (Barry Smith) Slides

Lindsay Cowell (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center): The IDO Core and Its Extensions - Coordination and Interoperability Slides

Albert Goldfain: The IDO-Staph Extension Slides

  • Video (for initial 10 minutes use slides from here)
Staph aureus diseases and their differentiation
Antibiotic Resistance (Blocking, Complemenatary and Reciprocal Dispositions) (Albert Goldfain)
A Lattice of Staph aureus Infectious Diseases
  • Background Reading
IDO website
LG Cowell, B Smith, "Infectious Disease Ontology", Chapter 19 in Infectious Disease Informatics, V Sintchenko (ed.), 2010, 373-395.
A Goldfain, B Smith and LG Cowell, “Dispositions and the Infectious Disease Ontology”, in Antony Galton and Riichiro Mizoguchi (eds.), Formal Ontology in Information Systems. Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference (FOIS 2010), Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2010, 400-413.

Military Ontology

Video presentations on military ontology are provided here.

Ontological Engineering

Modules from Fall 2013 Graduate Seminar, Buffalo, NY

Military Intelligence Ontology

A tutorial on ontology for intelligence analysis is here

Ontology Software

Teaching material on ontology software is provided here