OntoLoki: an automatic, instance-based method for the evaluation of biological ontologies on the Semantic Web

02/20/2015
by   Benjamin M. Good, et al.
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The delineation of logical definitions for each class in an ontology and the consistent application of these definitions to the assignment of instances to classes are important criteria for ontology evaluation. If ontologies are specified with property-based restrictions on class membership, then such consistency can be checked automatically. If no such logical restrictions are applied, as is the case with many biological ontologies, there are currently no automated methods for measuring the semantic consistency of instance assignment on an ontology-wide scale, nor for inferring the patterns of properties that might define a particular class. We constructed a program that takes as its input an OWL/RDF knowledge base containing an ontology, instances associated with each of the classes in the ontology, and properties of those instances. For each class, it outputs: 1) a rule for determining class membership based on the properties of the instances and 2) a quantitative score for the class that reflects the ability of the identified rule to correctly predict class membership for the instances in the knowledge base. We evaluated this program using both artificial knowledge bases of known quality and real, widely used ontologies. The results indicate that the suggested method can be used to conduct objective, automatic, data-driven evaluations of biological ontologies without formal class definitions in regards to the property-based consistency of instance-assignment. This inductive method complements existing, purely deductive approaches to automatic consistency checking, offering not just the potential to help in the ontology engineering process but also in the knowledge discovery process.

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