Yesterday I was listening to Ubbo, Saminda and Stephan argue about classes and instances for the BAO. It made my head hurt. But it also made me think.
Ontologies are all the rage: gene ontology, wine ontology and even a tick gross anatomy ontology. There are many essays, papers and web sites explaining why ontologies are useful. But I think the basic reason is that areas of knowledge are so complex and rich it is impossible for people and computers to think about them without someone taking the time to carefully describe a knowledge area’s concepts and their relationships, along with specific examples (instances).
Axon regeneration is a area that could benefit from an ontology. What are the concepts (classes)? What are their properties (features, attributes)? What are the instances? Are they genes? What else would be an instance in the axon regeneration domain. How could it dynamically incorporate changing information about molecular pathways?
Once we build an axon regeneration ontology, how would we exploit it? Would it allow us to most efficiently design combination therapies? Would it explain why some neurons can regenerate and others can’t?