Assessing the practice of biomedical ontology evaluation: Gaps and opportunities

Muhammad Amith, Zhe He, Jiang Bian, Juan Antonio Lossio-Ventura, Cui Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


With the proliferation of heterogeneous health care data in the last three decades, biomedical ontologies and controlled biomedical terminologies play a more and more important role in knowledge representation and management, data integration, natural language processing, as well as decision support for health information systems and biomedical research. Biomedical ontologies and controlled terminologies are intended to assure interoperability. Nevertheless, the quality of biomedical ontologies has hindered their applicability and subsequent adoption in real-world applications. Ontology evaluation is an integral part of ontology development and maintenance. In the biomedicine domain, ontology evaluation is often conducted by third parties as a quality assurance (or auditing) effort that focuses on identifying modeling errors and inconsistencies. In this work, we first organized four categorical schemes of ontology evaluation methods in the existing literature to create an integrated taxonomy. Further, to understand the ontology evaluation practice in the biomedicine domain, we reviewed a sample of 200 ontologies from the National Center for Biomedical Ontology (NCBO) BioPortal—the largest repository for biomedical ontologies—and observed that only 15 of these ontologies have documented evaluation in their corresponding inception papers. We then surveyed the recent quality assurance approaches for biomedical ontologies and their use. We also mapped these quality assurance approaches to the ontology evaluation criteria. It is our anticipation that ontology evaluation and quality assurance approaches will be more widely adopted in the development life cycle of biomedical ontologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomedical ontologies
  • Knowledge representation
  • Ontology evaluation
  • Quality assurance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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