Representing the NCI Thesaurus in OWL DL: Modeling tools help modeling languages

Natalya F. Noy, Sherri De Coronado, Harold Solbrig, Gilberto Fragoso, Frank W. Hartel, Mark A. Musen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Thesaurus is a biomedical reference ontology. The NCI Thesaurus is represented using description logic, more specifically Ontylog, a description logic implemented by Apelon, Inc. We are exploring the use of the DL species of theWeb Ontology Language (OWL DL) - aW3C recommended standard for ontology representation - instead of Ontylog for representing the NCI Thesaurus. We have studied the requirements for knowledge representation of the NCI Thesaurus, and considered how OWL DL (and its implementation in Protégé-OWL) satisfies these requirements. In this paper, we discuss the areas where OWL DL was sufficient for representing required components, where tool support that would hide some of the complexity and extra levels of indirection would be required, and where language expressiveness is not sufficient given the representation requirements. Because many of the knowledge-representation issues that we encountered are very similar to the issues in representing other biomedical terminologies and ontologies in general, we believe that the lessons that we learned and the approaches that we developed will prove useful and informative for other researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-190
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Ontology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomedical ontologies
  • NCI thesaurus
  • OWL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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