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The Pitfalls of Thesaurus Ontologization – the Case of the NCI Thesaurus

By Stefan Schulz, Daniel Schober, Ilinca Tudose and Holger Stenzhorn


Thesauri that are “ontologized” into OWL-DL semantics are highly amenable to modeling errors resulting from falsely interpreting existential restrictions. We investigated the OWL-DL representation of the NCI Thesaurus (NCIT) in order to assess the correctness of existential restrictions. A random sample of 354 axioms using the someValuesFrom operator was taken. According to a rating performed by two domain experts, roughly half of these examples, and in consequence more than 76,000 axioms in the OWL-DL version, make incorrect assertions if interpreted according to description logics semantics. These axioms therefore constitute a huge source for unintended models, rendering most logic-based reasoning unreliable. After identifying typical error patterns we discuss some possible improvements. Our recommendation is to either amend the problematic axioms in the OWL-DL formalization or to consider some less strict representational format

Topics: Articles
Publisher: American Medical Informatics Association
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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