Creating a controlled vocabulary for the ethics of human research: towards a biomedical ethics ontology

J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2009 Mar;4(1):43-58. doi: 10.1525/jer.2009.4.1.43.


ONTOLOGIES DESCRIBE REALITY IN SPECIFIC domains in ways that can bridge various disciplines and languages. They allow easier access and integration of information that is collected by different groups. Ontologies are currently used in the biomedical sciences, geography, and law. A Biomedical Ethics Ontology (BMEO) would benefit members of ethics committees who deal with protocols and consent forms spanning numerous fields of inquiry. There already exists the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI); the proposed BMEO would interoperate with OBI, creating a powerful information tool. We define a domain ontology and begin to construct a BMEO, focused on the process of evaluating human research protocols. Finally, we show how our BMEO can have practical applications for ethics committees. This paper describes ongoing research and a strategy for its broader continuation and cooperation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Automation
  • Classification
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Ethical Analysis / methods*
  • Ethics Committees, Research
  • Humans
  • Knowledge Bases*
  • Peer Review, Research / methods*
  • Reference Standards
  • Semantics
  • United States
  • Vocabulary, Controlled*