Realism for scientific ontologies

Michel Dumontier, Robert Hoehndorf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Proceeding (Non-Journal item)

18 Citations (SciVal)


Science aims to develop an accurate understanding of reality through a variety of rigorously empirical and formal methods. Ontologies are used to formalize the meaning of terms within a domain of discourse. The Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) is an ontology of particular importance in the biomedical domains, where it provides the top-level for numerous ontologies, including those admitted as part of the OBO Foundry collection. The BFO requires that all classes in an ontology are actually instantiated in reality. Despite the fact that it is hard to show whether entities of some kind exist or do not exist in reality (especially for unobservable entities like elementary particles), this criterion fails to satisfy the need of scientists to communicate their findings and theories unambiguously. We discuss the problems that arise due to the BFO's realism criterion and suggest viable alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFormal Ontology in Information Systems, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference, FOIS 2010
EditorsAntony Galton, Riichiro Mizoguchi
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherIOS Press
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2010
Event6th International Conference on Formal Ontology in Information Systems (FOIS 2010) - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 11 May 201014 May 2010

Publication series

NameFrontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications
PublisherIOS Press


Conference6th International Conference on Formal Ontology in Information Systems (FOIS 2010)
Period11 May 201014 May 2010


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