Tip of the Week: The National Center for Biomedical Ontology

NCBO_tip_imageAnyone who has either used or helped to create a database of biological information has probably come across ontological terms. In today’s tip I feature a great resource devoted to promoting the creation and proper use of ontologies. The resource is the The National Center for Biomedical Ontology, and allows users to learn about ontologies, find and use ontologies that are already in existence, and even to add newly developed ontologies to the resource so others might use them.

Ontologies are basically organized sets of controlled vocabulary terms that are applied in a uniform manor across diverse collections of information. They are important because of their ability to make abstract biological terms computer searchable. They also aid in the interpretation of biological information by researchers because each term includes a definition of how and when it should be applied to biological information. In this tip I briefly touch on finding ontologies, and on the educational resources available from the NCBO and BioPortal web sites.