Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Database Systems

pp 1960-1963

Ontologies and Life Science Data Management

  • Robert StevensAffiliated withUniversity of Manchester
  • , Phillip LordAffiliated withNewcastle University


Knowledge management


Biology is a knowledge-rich discipline. Much of bioinformatics can, therefore, be characterized as knowledge management: organizing, storing and representing that knowledge to enable search, reuse and computation.

Most of the knowledge of biology is categorical; statements such as “fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly” cannot be easily represented as mathematical or statistical relationships. These statements can, however, be formalized using ontologies: a form of model which represents the key concepts of a domain.

Ontologies are now widely used in bioinformatics for a variety of tasks, enabling integration and management of multiple data or knowledge sources, and providing a structure for new knowledge as it is created.

Historical Background

Biological knowledge is highly complex. It is characterized not by the large size of the data sets that it uses, but by the large number of data types; from relatively simple da ...

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