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Experience in Aligning Anatomical Ontologies
An ontology is a formal representation of a domain modeling the entities in the domain and their relations. When a domain is represented by multiple ontologies, there is need for creating mappings among these ontologies in order to facilitate the integration of data annotated with these ontologies and reasoning across ontologies. The objective of this paper is to recapitulate our experience in aligning large anatomical ontologies and to reflect on some of the issues and challenges encountered along the way. The four anatomical ontologies under investigation are the Foundational Model of Anatomy, GALEN, the Adult Mouse Anatomical Dictionary and the NCI Thesaurus. Their underlying representation formalisms are all different. Our approach to aligning concepts (directly) is automatic, rule-based, and operates at the schema level, generating mostly point-to-point mappings. It uses a combination of domain-specific lexical techniques and structural and semantic techniques (to validate the mappings suggested lexically). It also takes advantage of domain-specific knowledge (lexical knowledge from external resources such as the Unified Medical Language System, as well as knowledge augmentation and inference techniques). In addition to point-to-point mapping of concepts, we present the alignment of relationships and the mapping of concepts group-to-group. We have also successfully tested an indirect alignment through a domain-specific reference ontology. We present an evaluation of our techniques, both against a gold standard established manually and against a generic schema matching system. The advantages and limitations of our approach are analyzed and discussed throughout the paper.