Terminology representation guidelines for biomedical ontologies in the semantic web notations

Cui Tao, Jyotishman Pathak, Harold R. Solbrig, Wei Qi Wei, Christopher G. Chute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Terminologies and ontologies are increasingly prevalent in healthcare and biomedicine. However they suffer from inconsistent renderings, distribution formats, and syntax that make applications through common terminologies services challenging. To address the problem, one could posit a shared representation syntax, associated schema, and tags. We identified a set of commonly-used elements in biomedical ontologies and terminologies based on our experience with the Common Terminology Services 2 (CTS2) Specification as well as the Lexical Grid (LexGrid) project. We propose guidelines for precisely such a shared terminology model, and recommend tags assembled from SKOS, OWL, Dublin Core, RDF Schema, and DCMI meta-terms. We divide these guidelines into lexical information (e.g. synonyms, and definitions) and semantic information (e.g. hierarchies). The latter we distinguish for use by informal terminologies vs. formal ontologies. We then evaluate the guidelines with a spectrum of widely used terminologies and ontologies to examine how the lexical guidelines are implemented, and whether our proposed guidelines would enhance interoperability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-138
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Biomedical ontology
  • OWL
  • Ontology representation guidelines
  • RDF
  • Terminology
  • W3C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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