ISO/IEC recognizes Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) as a top level ontology for supporting global information technology – Department of Philosophy

Exploration Information

 graphic illustrating ontology.


Barry Smith; SUNY Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Julian Park Chair; Ph.D.; Manchester; Director; National Center for Ontological Research; Affiliate Professor of Biomedical Informatics; Computer Science; and Neurology; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; University at Buffalo 2016.

UB is a main center in the area of applied ontology, which develops the means essential to develop logically coherent knowledge classification programs. 1 crucial useful resource for this function has now been acknowledged as an intercontinental conventional by the Global Group for Standardization (ISO) and Global Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as conformant to the joint ISO/IEC Top-Amount Ontology conventional.

That resource is the Fundamental Formal Ontology (BFO), which is utilized in initiatives ranging from genomics investigation, to digital production, to the U.S. Office of Protection.

BFO is the very first piece of philosophy ever to get these kinds of recognition.

BFO was created and is preserved by a staff led by Barry Smith, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Division of Philosophy, University of Arts and Sciences, and director of UB’s National Centre for Ontological Analysis (NCOR). Smith led the UB group behind the energy, which included Werner Ceusters, division chief, Biomedical Ontology, Jacobs School of Medication and Biomedical Sciences, and Alan H. Ruttenberg, previous director of clinical and translational details exchange, UB Faculty of Dental Medicine.

The term “ontology” originally referred to a department of metaphysics. In the recent context, an “ontology” is a computational stock of forms of objects, procedures and the interactions concerning them. Ontologies provide managed vocabularies whose prevalent use by database and info devices developers permits their information to be a lot more correctly combined, retrieved and analyzed.

Hundreds of ontologies have been produced in lots of unique domains, but BFO is a “top-level” ontology that is relevant to any domain in any respect. It provides a popular architecture for use in supporting any official vocabulary.

“The publication of the new ISO/IEC normal has significantly-achieving implications that will motivate new degrees of innovation and collaboration not earlier achievable,” Smith clarifies. “In various disciplines for the last 20 several years or so, individuals have engaged in efforts to standardize classes in various areas. All those standardized sets are ontologies. Increasingly, BFO offers the architecture applied to do that function.”

The heritage of ontology

The achievements of the Human Genome Challenge gave rise really quickly to immense quantities of new kinds of information — info about genes, proteins and other molecular sequences. Biologists and healthcare researchers had to come across some way to join these new data to the function they were executing on organic processes in human beings and other organisms, including procedures foremost to condition. The Gene Ontology (GO), established in 1998, delivered a consensus vocabulary that could be utilized to tag sequences identified in all types of experiments involving biological phenomena.

In 2004, the GO leadership invited Smith to aid deal with the sensible issues that arose when the GO by itself essential to be connected to other ontologies covering domains these types of as chemistry or anatomy. The preliminary variation of BFO, which furnished a domain-neutral commencing place for ontology creating, was the final result of this get the job done.

Its successes in biology led the U.S. Army to consider BFO for some of its intelligence wants in 2010. Due to the fact then, numerous businesses in the U.S. Division of Defense and the U.S. intelligence group have followed go well with. Today, there are around 500 institutions and teams that have ontology initiatives making use of BFO.

When Smith started off doing work with the U.S. Military, he also turned concerned with CUBRC, a Buffalo-primarily based scientific study, enhancement, testing and techniques integration business that arose by means of a strategic marriage concerning UB and a regional technologies corporation in 1983 as a bridge concerning academia and market. Right now, CUBRC employs a lot more than 170 engineers and scientists who complete innovative analysis, advancement, engineering and testing expert services in the locations of aeroscience chemical, organic and professional medical sciences and data sciences.

“CUBRC’s key clients come from all factors of the U.S. Office of Defense,” claims Smith. “Based on the ever-increasing need to align and semantically greatly enhance incredibly huge and diverse info to assistance a large variety of defense and intelligence apps, CUBRC started out a smaller ontology group comprised of previous UB learners and associates, which crafted what arrived to be the Popular Core Ontologies (CCO), a very broad-ranging suite of open supply ontologies centered on BFO that is now used in significant initiatives relating to defense and intelligence.”

Early on, CUBRC regarded the opportunity effect throughout a extensive assortment of programs of subjecting BFO to the ISO course of action.

“As a consequence, CUBRC delivered both of those specialized and money support to Dr. Smith as he navigated the extended and complicated approach that resulted in the publication of the new intercontinental normal,” claims Michael Moskal, CUBRC CIO and senior vice-president.

How it operates

BFO is comparatively little but common in the sense that, according to Smith, its classes can be applied by more or a lot less everybody with knowledge. Absolutely everyone needs time and place objects and procedures qualities and places. These are just the kinds of standard phrases defined computationally by BFO.

“Let’s say you have a human being, or a tank, or a molecule. In every single situation, you have an object. Object is a standard group, though tank is decrease down the scale,” suggests Smith. “Similarly, if you have a clot forming or a bullet firing, then you have a process, which is a further best-stage class. BFO delivers a indicates for domain ontologists to develop types at lessen ranges in a regular way. That consistency is significant because of the ever-recurring will need to pool sources, as with interagency collaborations, or corporate mergers, or scientific collaborations. When databases are created in isolation, it becomes very highly-priced when they need to have to be blended.”

To see the types of issues that crop up, take into consideration the word “post,” which has many definitions and shades of meaning. Speakers of American English may possibly feel of a picket item when they listen to “post,” but speakers of British English may well be referring to the course of action of offering mail. Human beings are ready to operate out the nuances separating a piece of timber from the postal provider, but personal computers will need to plow ahead with just the facts that has been coded. Prevalent use of BFO can at least reduce some of the challenges that then arise.

As another illustration, consider the time period “hole.” German and French engineers doing the job in 2006 on independent items of the fuselage for the Airbus 380 had conflicting means of symbolizing holes in their respective pc-aided layout offers. But their databases plowed ahead with their layout guidelines. The discrepancy concerning the two definitions was not recognized until eventually the two items getting developed independently in Hamburg and Toulouse were being introduced collectively. It was only then that crews threading the hundreds of miles of wiring by way of the plane’s airframe announced that they ran out of slack before reaching the vital link factors.

Price tag to resolve a couple of millimeters of mismeasurement? About $6 billion.

BFO generation of philosophers

A philosophical background is ideally suited for producing a little something like BFO, notes Smith, for the reason that of the discipline’s wide mother nature.

Professionals create their awareness within a specific specialty or area.

“Engineers know a good deal about engineering, and pc experts know a whole lot about pc science, but philosophers know a tiny little bit — specifically the pretty typical little bit — about every thing, and which is what is necessary to make a prime-degree architecture that absolutely everyone can share, whether you are conversing about gene sequencing or army mission planning,” says Smith.

Large details storage and integration requires are modern day realities of all scientific undertakings.

“The ISO/IEC normal establishes BFO as the 1st Best Level Ontology for describing elaborate procedures, objects and capabilities in methods that will permit scientists to proceed with increased self-confidence that their knowledge will be reusable by some others,” suggests Smith.