The role of ontologies in biological and biomedical research: a functional perspective

Robert Hoehndorf, P. N. Schofield, G. V. Gkoutos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


Ontologies are widely used in biological and biomedical research. Their success lies in their combination of four main features present in almost all ontologies: provision of standard identifiers for classes and relations that represent the phenomena within a domain; provision of a vocabulary for a domain; provision of metadata that describes the intended meaning of the classes and relations in ontologies; and the provision of machine-readable axioms and definitions that enable computational access to some aspects of the meaning of classes and relations. While each of these features enables applications that facilitate data integration, data access and analysis, a great potential lies in the possibility of combining these four features to support integrative analysis and interpretation of multimodal data. Here, we provide a functional perspective on ontologies in biology and biomedicine, focusing on what ontologies can do and describing how they can be used in support of integrative research. We also outline perspectives for using ontologies in data-driven science, in particular their application in structured data mining and machine learning applications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1069-1080
Number of pages12
JournalBriefings in Bioinformatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 10 2015

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KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01


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