Goals of the High Level Ontology
In GALEN, we use the term ontology to indicate a model of categories within a universe of discourse, plus sufficient information about those categories to allow them to be classified automatically. Our ontologies are language independent, and we use the broader term terminology for an ontology linked to linguistic information. We also assume the ontology to be separate from (but complimentary to) more general inference systems dealing with time, causality and so on.
Agreement on a high level scheme within the overall representation is a prerequisite for effective co-operation between different groups of modellers within the GALEN-IN-USE project. However, despite the philosophical connotations of the word ontology, our work in modelling an ontology for computer applications has always required a practical and pragmatic approach. It is not possible in practice either to build, or construct an implementation to support, a philosophically perfect model. The GALEN high level ontology, therefore, is not claimed to be an ultimate or perfect solution. It is, rather, the current stage in a series of successive approximations to practical tools delivering a terminology which will:
- Fit closely enough with accepted medical usage to enable intuitive user interaction, especially in applications for clinical data entry or the retrieval and classification of medical concepts
- Be re-usable, i.e. be sufficiently general to be used by a range of different medical applications
- Support practical collaboration between different groups, being easily understood, taught, and used
- Conform with the principle of separation of taxonomies.