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Comparative and Functional Genomics
Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 90-93
Conference review

Bringing Ontology to the Gene Ontology

Ontology Works Inc., 1132 Annapolis Road, Suite 104, Odenton 21113, MD, USA

Received 30 October 2002; Accepted 3 December 2002

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We present an analysis of some considerations involved in expressing the Gene Ontology (GO) as a machine-processible ontology, reflecting principles of formal ontology. GO is a controlled vocabulary that is intended to facilitate communication between biologists by standardizing usage of terms in database annotations. Making such controlled vocabularies maximally useful in support of bioinformatics applications requires explicating in machine-processible form the implicit background information that enables human users to interpret the meaning of the vocabulary terms. In the case of GO, this process would involve rendering the meanings of GO into a formal (logical) language with the help of domain experts, and adding additional information required to support the chosen formalization. A controlled vocabulary augmented in these ways is commonly called an ontology. In this paper, we make a modest exploration to determine the ontological requirements for this extended version of GO. Using the terms within the three GO hierarchies (molecular function, biological process and cellular component), we investigate the facility with which GO concepts can be ontologized, using available tools from the philosophical and ontological engineering literature.