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Barry Smith wins 2016 IAOA Ontology Competition

Published August 18, 2016

Together with Niels Grewe and Ludger Jansen from the University of Rostock, Barry Smith has won the 2016 Ontology Competition organized by the International Association for Ontology and Its Applications (IAOA). In all, nine teams were competing for the prize, from which three finalists were invited to present their contributions at the international conference on Formal Ontology in Information Systems (FOIS) held in Annecy, France.

The theme of the competition was the representation of change in ontologies. The winning entry, which rests on contributions by UB ontologist Alan Ruttenberg, presents an ontological solution to the problem of how part-whole and other simple relationships can be captured correctly by means of formal logic. Your brain, for example, remains identical throughout your life. Your body cells, in contrast, are constantly renewed. This important difference could not thus far be expressed within the standard Web Ontology Language (OWL) used in many biomedical informatics initiatives. The proposed solution allows computers to handle a statement such as "Humans have body cells" in such a way that it is not assumed that the exact same cells persist as parts throughout a person’s life. The ability to handle this problem has the potential to make an important contribution to ontology applications in all areas where data about change needs to be correctly managed. The work will in particular help to advance Basic Formal Ontology (BFO), an ontology developed in Buffalo that is used by more than 200 ontology groups throughout the world.