Stefan Schulz

Title: SNOMED CT x BFO: can the gap between legacy terminology and foundational ontology be bridged?

Abstract: The global terminology standard SNOMED CT promises semantic interoperability for health care. Based on OWL-EL, it can be considered one of the worlds’ largest domain ontologies. It is derived from a multiaxial nomenclature created in the 1970s, which was later merged with a coarsely structured collection of clinical terms. Although impressive efforts have been done to enrich it with formal axioms that allow description logic-based reasoning and classification, its evolution has remained largely unaffected by the development of foundational ontologies.

Driven by the BFO standardisation efforts, there is increasing interest in exploiting the way by which a harmonisation between the two standards is possible. This keynote will report on ongoing activities and illustrate a number of problems using examples from the SNOMED CT hierarchies “Clinical finding” and “Qualifier value”. Convinced that an ontology-based re-design of SNOMED CT is not feasible, the focus is set on how to re-interpret existing SNOMED CT content from a foundational ontology perspective.

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