A flexible approach for user evaluation of biomedical ontologies
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There has been an emergence of various ontologies describing data from either clinical or biological domains. Associated with this has been the development of integration systems, attempting to combine such biomedical ontologies using various strategies to overcome issues of scope and differing levels of granularity. However, such ontology based integration systems still find little use in distributed computing environments. This is attributed to both the lack of knowledge about user needs for such systems and the absence of a general framework to assess their relative suitability for specific applications. This paper aims to bridge this gap by proposing such a reference framework. The framework draws on existing information systems and ontology evaluation approaches in relating user objectives to ontology characteristics. The paper suggests that such a framework bridges the gap by emphasizing the dynamics of a biomedical environment. The framework therefore includes feedbacks from the evaluation process to the user characteristics of the integrated systems. This reference framework was validated in a study using structured interviews and a survey. The results indicate that the framework is sufficiently flexible for evaluating ontology based biomedical integrated systems, taking into account the conflicting needs of different users interested in accessing complex libraries of biomedical data.