Blogging an Ontology Book

University of Manchester
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I and fellow EBIers Duncan Hull and Helen Parkinson have just completed a two-day meeting at Manchester University titled “blogging a book”. The idea was the brain child of Phil Lord and was ran by Robert Stevens and David Shotton under the OntoGenesis Network. The aim of the meeting was to produce encyclopedic-like articles about ontology (particular ontologies in biology) which might be of use to those coming to the field from new (or perhaps just after a refresher or something to cite).

The articles produced include topics such as :

What is an Ontology?
Upper ontologies



Application and reference ontologies

Community dirven ontology development
Protege and Protege OWL
Semantic Integration in Life Sciences

As well as producing interesting and hopefully useful articles, a further motivation of the meeting was to see if the authoring and peer-review process could be duplicated in an online, blog-style framework.  Each blog article, following authoring, is submitted for review and will only be considered ‘published’ when it has passed reviews from 2 peers.  It exposed some interesting strengths and weaknesses of authoring technology such as blogs.

Perhaps the primary weakness of the approach was the lack of collaborative software for authoring an article between multiple collaborators, although this is generally not how blog articles are written. Perhaps this is an area that may be strengthened in future. A strength is that the articles were quickly published and that DOI will (eventually) be obtained for articles so that they are citeable and therefore credit can be assigned.

Perhaps a more debatable strength, is that reviews were posted alongside the finished article for all to see, including the reviewers names, rendering the process entirely transparent. It raises some interesting thoughts, not least, would a reviewer be more or less inclined to criticise a paper they were reviewing if their identity was revealed and if their review were to be made public? Would reviews be more thorough as a consequence, since they would, in essence, also be published and available for peer scrutiny?

James Malone

    • JM
    • January 25th, 2010

    I also see BBSRC chief Douglas Kell mentioned this work in his latest posting:

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