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ICBO 2016 Workshop #W06


OBO Tutorial: Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies in Action

Workshop type

Ontology 101 (Basics of Ontology)


James A. Overton

Co-organizer(s) Mathias Brochhausen
Matthew Brush
Shahim Essaid
Melissa Haendel
Chris Mungall
Bjoern Peters
Barry Smith
Chris Stoeckert
Workshop Abstract

The Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) provide a suite of interoperable ontologies for biology and medicine. Ontology users and developers benefit from close collaboration and shared best practises, and they benefit most when they are familiar with a range of shared tools and techniques. In this interactive tutorial we present a range of real-world examples focused on OBO Foundry and Library ontologies, covering the use and reuse of ontologies, processing data with ontologies, and contributing to ontology development. Our panel of experts will share case studies of OBO in action, including the Immune Epitope Database, ImmPort, EuPathDB, and more. The session will also highlight recent activities of the OBO Foundry, including clarification of OBO Foundry principles, review of ontologies with respect to those principles, and our new website.

This session contributes to the field of biomedical ontology by introducing novice and intermediate ontology users and developers to the tools and techniques used by the wider community of biomedical ontologies. The interactive presentation, and wide range of introductory material covered in this session make it well suited for a tutorial, rather than part of the main conference. We will advertise this session on a range of mailing lists devoted to ontology and linked data.


In this session we will introduce and explain basic ontology terminology, tools, best practices, and workflows. The main target audiences are scientists, curators, and students who are beginning to work with ontologies. While the main conference is devoted to cutting-edge research and applications, there is a need for introductory material that addresses new members of our growing community. Our presentation will be interactive, encouraging questions and discussion, which makes it much more suitable for a tutorial than for the main conference.
OBO Tutorials have been part of ICBO for many years, and our sessions have been consistently well-attended. Approximately 50 people attended the 2014 tutorial in Houston, and approximately 30 attended the 2015 tutorial in Lisbon. Both times that was more than the number of chairs in the room.

Introductory tutorials such as this one are especially important for attracting participation from the local community: people from the university who would like to learn more about ontologies, but do not usually attend ontology conferences. In Houston, for example, a large portion of our audience was from the local NASA community. We believe that our OBO Tutorial addresses a large and important audience of young researchers and new members of our community, and that it will increase participation in ICBO 2016.

Funding source (if any) N/A