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How and why should expert stakeholders be involved in ontology development? Insights from the social sciences outlined in new paper

By Emma Norris

Publication Date: 23/03/2021

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How and why should expert stakeholders be involved in ontology development?

 Insights from the social sciences outlined in new paper


Dr Emma Norris and colleagues in the behavioural science team of the Human Behaviour-Change Project have published a new paper in Journal of Biomedical Semantics.

Ontologies allow us to specify entities and their relationships in a given domain of knowledge. Within the Human Behaviour-Change Project, we are developing a Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology to structure scientific specification of behaviour change interventions. Ontologies remain relatively uncommon in the behavioural sciences.

Incorporating the knowledge of domain experts is essential for ensuring that the entities, definitions and relationships within an ontology capture the forefront of current knowledge. The involvement of experts in ontology development is advocated by the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontology (OBO) Foundry: recognised as the gold-standard repository of ontologies in the scientific domain. However, little guidance currently exists on how to conduct expert feedback. While the social sciences have much to learn about computational ontologies, they have much to contribute in methods of engaging expert stakeholders to improve development and adoption of ontologies.

This paper aimed to draw on social science research to: i) demonstrate how expert feedback can enhance ontology development, and ii) provide practical recommendations on how to conduct expert feedback in ontology development.

The paper reflects on existing practices used to engage experts in ontology development, including mailing lists and issue trackers. It highlights appropriate methods from the social sciences which can be implemented to enhance expert involvement, including advisory boards and working groups, expert feedback tasks, consensus exercises, discussions and workshops. The paper also provides advice on how to collate and recruit a pool of expert stakeholders, as well as how to analyse and report their feedback.

Read the full paper here

Contact Dr Emma Norris:  @EJ_Norris

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Human Behaviour-Change Project

Centre for Behaviour Change
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place, London, WC1E 7HB