An ontology of randomized controlled trials for evidence-based practice: content specification and evaluation using the competency decomposition method

J Biomed Inform. 2004 Apr;37(2):108-19. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2004.03.001.


Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are one of the least biased sources of clinical research evidence, and are therefore a critical resource for the practice of evidence-based medicine. With over 10,000 new RCTs indexed in Medline each year, knowledge systems are needed to help clinicians translate evidence into practice. Common ontologies for RCTs and other domains would facilitate the development of these knowledge systems. However, no standard method exists for developing domain ontologies. In this paper, we describe a new systematic approach to specifying and evaluating the conceptual content of ontologies. In this method, called competency decomposition, the target task for an ontology is hierarchically decomposed into subtasks and methods, and the ontology content is specified by identifying the domain information required to complete each of the subtasks. We illustrate the use of this competency decomposition approach for the content specification and evaluation of an RCT ontology for evidence-based practice.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Database Management Systems*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods*
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Publishing*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*