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ICBO 2016 Workshop #W14


Fourth International Workshop on Definitions in Ontologies (IWOOD 2016)

Workshop type

Discussion group (Talks + Discussion)


Selja Seppälä, University of Florida

Co-organizer(s) Amanda Hicks
Mark Jensen
Daniel Schlegel
Patrick Ray
Alan Ruttenberg
Workshop Abstract

This half-day workshop is the fourth workshop on Definitions in Ontologies. The first three such workshops (DO 2013, IWOOD 2014, and IWOOD 2015) were held in conjunction with ICBO 2013 (25 attendees), ICBO 2014 (30 attendees), and ICBO 2015 (18 attendees). This year's edition is focused on definition writing, evaluation, revision strategies, methodologies, and tools.

Definitions of terms in ontologies serve a number of purposes. For example, logical definitions allow reasoners to assist in and verify classification, lessening the development burden and enabling expressive query. Natural language definitions can help ameliorate low inter-annotator agreement. Good definitions allow for non-experts and experts in adjacent disciplines to understand unfamiliar terms making it possible to confidently use terms from external ontologies, facilitating data integration.

Despite the importance of definitions in ontologies, developers often have little if any training in writing definitions and axioms, as shown in Selja Seppälä and Alan Ruttenberg, Survey on defining practices in ontologies: Report, July 2013. This leads to varying definition practices and inconsistent definition quality. Worse, textual and logical definitions are often left out of ontologies altogether.

The goals of this workshop are:

  • to engage participants in discussing what are well-constructed textual and logical definitions;
  • to disseminate methodological solutions to textual and logical definition writing and generation;
  • to introduce tools to assist in definition creation;
  • to bring together interested researchers and developers to explore issues relating to definitions and enable cross-fertilization leading to new approaches;
  • to share case studies that expose difficulties arising in definition construction, evaluation, interpretation, and revision;
  • to disseminate strategies of evaluation of definitions by readers from different domains in order to reveal potential difficulties in interpretation;
  • to disseminate practices for participants to bring back to their projects that will improve the quality of their ontologies;
  • to provide an opportunity for interaction and collaboration with experts on definitional practices;
  • to provide a platform for ontology developers to initiate cross-ontology collaborations for definition-related matters.

The workshop will consist of case-based presentations on strategies, methodologies, and tools for writing, evaluating, and revising textual and logical definitions in ontologies. Presentations will be followed by extensive discussions on the presented strategy and use cases. The organizers will facilitate interactivity by providing collective exercises on definition creation, evaluation, and revision in relation to the speakers’ presentations. The audience will also be invited to submit use-cases and examples that have presented difficulty, which will then be discussed in an open format.


An ontology without logical definitions is of limited utility; an ontology without textual definitions is difficult to (re)use. Despite the importance of definitions, they must still be written individually; this is time-consuming, costly, requires uncommon expertise, and is prone to many kinds of inconsistencies when viewed across other terms and ontologies.

We want to address this issue by generating work, discussion, and publication about good practices for textual and logical definitions in ontologies across all biomedical and biological specialties, and applicable to all categories represented in these ontologies. By providing participants with strategies to enhance their definitional skills, we can help them reduce the time spent in definition authoring, evaluating, and revising. The workshop is a platform for both young researchers and experienced ontology developers to discuss their definition-writing practices with definition experts. Finally, this workshop is meant to promote cross-disciplinary collaborative work.

The workshop will document findings on the workshop's website and in a publication.

For further details:

Funding source (if any) N/A