Challenges in converting frame-based ontology into OWL: the Foundational Model of Anatomy case-study

AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2005;2005:181-5.


A description logics representation of the Foundational Model of Anatomy (FMA) in the Web Ontology Language (OWL-DL) would allow developers to combine it with other OWL ontologies, and would provide the benefit of being able to access generic reasoning tools. However, the FMA is currently represented in a frame language. The differences between description logics and frames are not only syntactic, but also semantic. We analyze some theoretical and computational limitations of converting the FMA into OWL-DL. Namely, some of the constructs used in the FMA do not have a direct equivalent in description logics, and a complete conversion of the FMA in description logics is too large to support reasoning. Therefore, an OWL-DL representation of the FMA would have to be optimized for each application. We propose a solution based on OWL-Full, a superlanguage of OWL-DL, that meets the expressiveness requirements and remains application-independent. Specific simplified OWL-DL representations can then be generated from the OWL-Full model by applications. We argue that this solution is easier to implement and closer to the application needs than an integral translation, and that the latter approach would only make the FMA maintenance more difficult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy / classification*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Vocabulary, Controlled*