Monday, October 26, 2015

Behavior Ontologies workshop 2

Over the weekend we held the second workshop (funded by NSF and the Phenotype Ontologies RCN) to begin the process of merging the ABO (Animal Behavior Ontology, which came out of a series of workshops in 2004 and 2005) and the NBO (NeuroBehavior Ontology) which, as we learned at the workshop, had its roots in a phenotype vocabulary that started around 2001.  To be fair, the effort that led to ABO came out of a private discussion between two of the principals held at the 1999 ABS meeting.   The workshop was held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

We aren't quite where I expected to be after the meeting.  We made good progress getting started on a use-case based paper for applications of a behavior ontology.  We also have a real home for the ABO - we deposited the OWL rendering I generated in 2006 as the initial commit here  (note that this is the same repository where NBO is maintained. The main use of the ABO was for indexing an ethogram repository called Ethosearch. Ethosearch enhanced the ABO by adding definitions to many of the original terms. We should shortly have those terms merged into the OWL version of the ABO.

We started the process of merging the ABO and NBO. One of ABO's strengths is a clear division between observable behavior (acts, events) and functional interpretations (for example, running vs. fleeing from a predator). The NBO is organized rather differently and we would like the division in ABO to appear at least somewhere in NBO. NBO does have a sizable number of terms that would apply to neither, but are more mechanism or 'mental function' related. The main challenge to reorganization is making changes in a way that would be acceptable to other NBO stakeholders. One of our tasks in this meeting was to identify at least some of the other stakeholders that might be affected by a merge and reorganization. I would say this goal was partially met, but I'm not sure we have identified everyone.  (Personal note: Arachnolingua does use NBO, but would only benefit from any ABO integration).

We have plans for sharing this work (besides the paper, there will be, at the very least, a poster at SICB-2016, and there were other ideas floated on Sunday).  I will have updates as things progress.

Workshop Organizers: Anne Clark, Sue Margulis, Cynthia Parr, Katja Schultz (Local Host), and myself
Participants: Elissa Chesler, George Gkoutos, David Osumi-Sutherland, and Reid Rumelt
Melissa Haendel participated remotely.