In early November Wasila and I attended the AmphibAnat workshop in Kansas City, MO (Nov. 5-8) that was organized by Anne Maglia. As you may know, Phenoscape has a close relationship with this group, not only because they work on herps (ichthyologists and herpetologists have a long tradition of working together…), but because they are also developing ontologies to annotate the published comparative anatomical literature. I presented the status of our work in Phenoscape to the large group (~40) of amphibian development and anatomy experts who were present. As these folks added new terms, synonyms, and images to the amphibian ontologies over the course of the next few days, we solicited comments on the prototypes of three new interfaces for the Phenoscape Knowledgebase. Using both images and paper copies of these prototypes, we invited people to sit down with us on a one-on-one basis and describe in detail what worked and what was missing or unclear. The feedback was extremely useful, and we appreciated the AmphibAnat time. We have now gone over all the comments within Phenoscape and logged them individually to FogBugz, our internal tracking system. We’ll be generating new versions of these prototypes through early February, when we plan a formal round of usability testing.
Ontologies, controlled vocabularies with well-defined relations among terms, are a key tool in scientific data integration. By using ontologies, scientists from different disciplines can know when they are referring to the same entity by different names, and new discoveries are enabled by computer software being able to reason across disciplines and over large datasets. Already widely used in genomics, ontologies are of growing importance in systematics, ecology, behavior, genetics, morphology and physiology. This workshop aims to explore the utility of ontologies for ichthyology and herpetology, using the Teleost Anatomy Ontology and the Amphibian Anatomy Ontology as case studies of community resources that are being actively developed and used by members of ASIH. Read the rest of this entry »