Furthering Life Sciences with Ontologies

Janna Hastings recently reported that ontologies have become an essential component of life science research. She writes, "Ontology has become the method of choice throughout most of biology and biomedicine for constructing and maintaining standardisations of the terminology used in database annotations.  This was the primary motivation for the development of the Gene Ontology, and remains until today a pressing and urgent requirement throughout computer-assisted science in many different fields.  This is thus the first application of bio-ontology in data-driven science."

A primary component of good ontology, Hastings writes, is "Standardised vocabulary with definitions and synonyms for unified database annotations across different databases." She explains, "Most of the OBO Foundry principles are designed to facilitate this objective. In particular, emphasising the stability of identifiers.  Stably maintained identifiers are an essential requirement if annotations to an ontology are to be created across multiple databases, because different update and release cycles will certainly result in dead links within downstream databases if IDs just disappear from the source ontology."

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