Using ontologies to provide controlled vocabularies

What is an ontology?

In informatics and computer science, an ontology is a representation of the shared background knowledge for a community (7). An ontology describes the categories of objects described in a body of data, the relationships between those objects, and the relationships between those categories. In doing so, an ontology describes the objects themselves and sometimes defines what you need to know to recognise one of those objects. The labels used to describe the objects can be used to deliver a controlled vocabulary, but an ontology is much more than a controlled vocabulary.

Pencil iconHierarchical ontologies

Hierarchical ontologies take the form of a tree, with terms becoming more specific the further down the branches they are. The tree below shows a subsection of a hierarchical ontology describing human anatomy.

Learn more about ontologies in this video clip with Sarah Morgan, Scientific Training Coordinator at EMBL-EBI.