|Abstract||You are very complex. You consist of numerous anatomical parts at many levels of scale, granularity and function, and you live via similarly stratified physiological processes and systems, all (we hope) working well together. But when they don’t, you want the best available medical care – swiftly and efficiently, and informed by the latest research. In many cases, that research will inform your treatment through various biomedical information systems. So you have an interest in these systems’ being as good as possible. Problem: they often aren’t, for conceptual rather than technical reasons. So if philosophers can assist in improving such systems, they could save lives, including yours. Ontology has at long last come out of the Philosophy Room and is starting to do useful work in the outside world. Information scientists, intelligence artificers and others have been using the word Ôontology’ for some years for platform- or implementationindependent representation schemes, but this usage has only some things in common with the philosopher’s notion of a Ôscience of being’. To distinguish the two, I shall use ÔOntology’ for the philosopher’s sense and Ôontology’ (or its plural) for the IT sense (and extend to cognates). It turns out that many of the systems for which ontology has been used contained and still contain serious defects from an Ontologist’s point of view, and these defects are more than just purists’ intellectual nitpicks: they seriously inhibit the effectiveness of large, important, and expensive schemes of data representation. To take just one example: in Chap. 7, ÔClassification’, of this REVIEW impressive collection, Ludger Jansen neatly epitomises the conditions that a good classification scheme should exemplify, notes that Borges’s famous whimsical Chinese Encyclopaedia Classification breaks every rule, and then less amusingly shows that similar errors are endemic in a large and important medical information system, the US National Cancer Information Thesaurus..|
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