A user centered approach for evaluating biomedical data integration ontologies
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There has been an emergence of various biomedical ontologies that seek to integrate data from the clinical and biological domains. These ontologies are attempts to relate clinical and biological data using various strategies to overcome issues of scope, process and differing levels of granularity. However, lack of knowledge about user needs for such biomedical ontologies, and absence of a general framework to assess their suitability for specific applications remain obstacles to their reuse and wide adoption in distributed computing environments. This paper describes a study that seeks to bridge this gap by proposing a framework to assess the suitability of a biomedical ontology for a user task. The framework draws on existing ontology evaluation approaches in relating user needs to biomedical ontology characteristics. Systems theory is used to explain the dynamics of a biomedical environment. The framework therefore includes feedbacks from the evaluation process to user characteristics of the integrated systems. This framework was validated by a study using structured interviews and questionnaires in a survey. The results indicate that it is sufficiently flexible for evaluating ontologies for biomedical data integration, while taking into account the conflicting needs of different users interested in accessing complex libraries of biomedical data.