The Justificatory Structure of the NCBO BioPortal Ontologies

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Current ontology development tools offer debugging support by presenting justifications for entailments of OWL ontologies. While these minimal subsets have been shown to support debugging and understanding tasks, the occurrence of multiple justifications presents a significant cognitive challenge to users. In many cases even a single entailment may have many distinct justifications, and justifications for distinct entailments may be critically related. However, it is currently unknown how prevalent significant numbers of multiple justifications per entailment are in the field. To address this lack, we examine the justifications from an independently motivated corpus of actively used biomedical ontologies from the NCBO BioPortal. We find that the majority of ontologies contain multiple justifications, while also exhibiting structural features (such as patterns) which can be exploited in order to reduce user effort in the ontology engineering process.