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Vogt L.,University of Bonn | Grobe P.,Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig Bonn | Quast B.,University of Bonn | Bartolomaeus T.,University of Bonn
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Background: The Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) is a top-level formal foundational ontology for the biomedical domain. It has been developed with the purpose to serve as an ontologically consistent template for top-level categories of application oriented and domain reference ontologies within the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies Foundry (OBO). BFO is important for enabling OBO ontologies to facilitate in reliably communicating and managing data and metadata within and across biomedical databases. Following its intended single inheritance policy, BFO's three top-level categories of material entity (i.e. 'object', 'fiat object part', 'object aggregate') must be exhaustive and mutually disjoint. We have shown elsewhere that for accommodating all types of constitutively organized material entities, BFO must be extended by additional categories of material entity. Methodology/Principal Findings: Unfortunately, most biomedical material entities are cumulative-constitutively organized. We show that even the extended BFO does not exhaustively cover cumulative-constitutively organized material entities. We provide examples from biology and everyday life that demonstrate the necessity for 'portion of matter' as another material building block. This implies the necessity for further extending BFO by 'portion of matter' as well as three additional categories that possess portions of matter as aggregate components. These extensions are necessary if the basic assumption that all parts that share the same granularity level exhaustively sum to the whole should also apply to cumulative-constitutively organized material entities. By suggesting a notion of granular representation we provide a way to maintain the single inheritance principle when dealing with cumulative-constitutively organized material entities. Conclusions/Significance: We suggest to extend BFO to incorporate additional categories of material entity and to rearrange its top-level material entity taxonomy. With these additions and the notion of granular representation, BFO would exhaustively cover all top-level types of material entities that application oriented ontologies may use as templates, while still maintaining the single inheritance principle. © 2012 Vogt et al. Source


Vogt L.,University of Bonn | Grobe P.,Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig Bonn | Quast B.,University of Bonn | Bartolomaeus T.,University of Bonn
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Background: Distinguishing bona fide (i.e. natural) and fiat (i.e. artificial) physical boundaries plays a key role for distinguishing natural from artificial material entities and is thus relevant to any scientific formal foundational top-level ontology, as for instance the Basic Formal Ontology (BFO). In BFO, the distinction is essential for demarcating two foundational categories of material entity: object and fiat object part. The commonly used basis for demarcating bona fide from fiat boundary refers to two criteria: (i) intrinsic qualities of the boundary bearers (i.e. spatial/physical discontinuity, qualitative heterogeneity) and (ii) mind-independent existence of the boundary. The resulting distinction of bona fide and fiat boundaries is considered to be categorial and exhaustive. Methodology/Principal Findings: By referring to various examples from biology, we demonstrate that the hitherto used distinction of boundaries is not categorial: (i) spatial/physical discontinuity is a matter of scale and the differentiation of bona fide and fiat boundaries is thus granularity-dependent, and (ii) this differentiation is not absolute, but comes in degrees. By reducing the demarcation criteria to mind-independence and by also considering dispositions and historical relations of the bearers of boundaries, instead of only considering their spatio-structural properties, we demonstrate with various examples that spatio-structurally fiat boundaries can nevertheless be mind-independent and in this sense bona fide. Conclusions/Significance: We argue that the ontological status of a given boundary is perspective-dependent and that the strictly spatio-structural demarcation criteria follow a static perspective that is ignorant of causality and the dynamics of reality. Based on a distinction of several ontologically independent perspectives, we suggest different types of boundaries and corresponding material entities, including boundaries based on function (locomotion, physiology, ecology, development, reproduction) and common history (development, heredity, evolution). We argue that for each perspective one can differentiate respective bona fide from fiat boundaries. © 2012 Vogt et al. Source

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