The formalization of expert knowledge enables a broad spectrum of applications employing ontologies as underlying technology. These include eLearning, Semantic Web and expert systems. However, the manual construction of such ontologies is time-consuming and thus expensive. Moreover, experts are often unfamiliar with the syntax and semantics of formal ontology languages such as OWL and usually have no experience in developing formal ontologies. To overcome these barriers, we developed a new method and tool, called Expert2OWL that provides efficient features to support the construction of OWL ontologies using GFO (General Formal Ontology) as a top-level ontology. This method allows a close and effective collaboration between ontologists and domain experts. Essentially, this tool integrates Excel spreadsheets as part of a pattern-based ontology development and refinement process. Expert2OWL enables us to expedite the development process and modularize the resulting ontologies. We applied this method in the field of Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) and used Expert2OWL to automatically generate an accurate Chinese Herbology ontology (CHO). The expressivity of CHO was tested and evaluated using ontology query languages SPARQL and DL. CHO shows promising results and can generate answers to important scientific questions such as which Chinese herbal formulas contain which substances, which substances treat which diseases, and which ones are the most frequently used in CHM.
Keywords: Biomedical Representation; Expert2OWL; Herbal Medicine; Ontology development; TCM.