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Definitions in Ontologies

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  • Full or part time
    Prof U Sattler
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

An ontology is a machine-processable description of the concepts that are relevant in some application domain, e.g., in molecular biology. It fixes a vocabulary for these concepts, describes their meaning, and captures relevant background knowledge. Ontologies are widely used (and developed) in a variety of knowledge intensive areas, including bio-health. They are written in some ontology language, e.g., OWL, which can be regarded as a decidable fragment of first order logic. Various communities have developed repositories of ontologies so that they can be shared, and some have developed quality criteria to spread good practice in ontology design.

One good practice that is widely acknowledged is that each concept that is captured in an ontology should be annotated with a good definition in natural language, e.g., English, and there is a good understanding of what a good definition is. Now given that (the logical part of) our ontology fixes terms and their relations, and given that we know we are looking at definitions of these, we should be able to automatically assess the quality of the natural language definitions given, analyse their relation with the logical constraints and relations described in the ontology, support the ontology developer in improving those constraints from the natural language definitions, and also support the ontology developer in improving the natural language definitions from these constraints.

A student taking this project should have knowledge of and interest in at least some of the relevant areas, i.e., logics in general, Description Logics and OWL, ontologies, natural language processing.

Funding Notes

Candidates who have been offered a place for PhD study in the School of Computer Science may be considered for funding by the School. Further details on School funding can be found at:


The minimum requirements to get a place in our PhD programme are available from:

Related Subjects

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