The Evolution and Importance of Biomedical Ontologies for Scientific Literature

The volume of scientific literature being published has increased dramatically in the digital age. Ontologies and taxonomies are important tools to help researchers retrieve and understand this overwhelming amount of scientific literature, but using and managing ontologies can be challenging in itself. 

In this paper we’re looking at the history of biomedical classification and how these systems have evolved to address new technology and use cases. We’ll explain the difference between taxonomies and ontologies, and discuss the challenges and successes that come with adopting and managing ontologies.

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About the Authors

Jane Lomax, Head of Ontologies, SciBite

Jane leads the development of SciBite’s vocabularies and ontology services. She holds a PhD in Genetics from Cambridge University and has 15 years’ experience working with biomedical ontologies, including at the European Bioinformatics Institute and Wellcome Sanger Institute. She has published over 35 scientific papers, mainly in the area of ontology development and biocuration, and contributes to public ontology projects including Pistoia Ontology Mapping Project, the OBO Foundry and is a current member of the Executive Committee for the International Society of Biocuration.

Elizabeth Wolf, Data Quality Manager, Copyright Clearance Center 

Elizabeth S. Wolf is Data Quality Manager at Copyright Clearance Center. She earned her MLS at University of Maryland and studied health science reference under Winifred Sewell. Elizabeth is a member of the team responsible for the CCC Managed Data-Works Management System. She also provides User Acceptance Testing (UAT) for RightFind Navigate, an aggregated search platform enhanced by machine learning and contextualized discovery. Elizabeth leads the Expert Literature Search Service, including pharmacovigilance searching. She is a member of Metadata 2020, has served on two NISO working groups, and has extensive experience with ontologies.