Ontology as the core discipline of biomedical informatics: Legacies of the past and recommendations for the future direction of research


The automatic integration of rapidly expanding information resources in the life sciences is one of the most challenging goals facing biomedical research today. Controlled vocabularies, terminologies, and coding systems play an important role in realizing this goal, by making it possible to draw together information from heterogeneous sources – for example pertaining to genes and proteins, drugs and diseases – secure in the knowledge that the same terms will also represent the same entities on all occasions of use. In the naming of genes, proteins, and other molecular structures, considerable efforts are under way to reduce the effects of the different naming conventions which have been spawned by different groups of researchers. Electronic patient records, too, increasingly involve the use of standardized terminologies, and tremendous efforts are currently being devoted to the creation of terminology resources that can meet the needs of a future era of personalized medicine, in which genomic and clinical data can be aligned in such a way that the corresponding information systems become interoperable

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