This post is a followup to our previous post about integrating the Animal Behavior Ontology (ABO) and the NeuroBehavior Ontology (NBO). This covers the second workshop, a conference call held in early December and the poster one of us (PM) presented at SICB 2016 on January 6.
With additional funding from the Phenotype RCN, on October 24–25, 2015 we held the second workshop to begin the process of merging the ABO and the NBO based on the first workshop’s recommendations. This workshop was held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. Attendees included Elissa Chesler, George Gkoutos, David Osumi-Sutherland, and Reid Rumelt (Cornell undergraduate working on media tagging-based research); and workshop organizers Anne Clark, Sue Margulis, Peter Midford, Cynthia Parr, and Katja Schultz (our Local Host). Melissa Haendel participated remotely.
We made good progress getting started on a use-case based paper for applications of a behavior ontology. We also have a real home for the ABO – we deposited the OWL rendering Peter Midford generated in 2006 as the initial commit in a GitHub repository (note that this is the same repository where NBO is maintained).
We started the process of merging the ABO and NBO, our central objective. One of ABO’s strengths is a clear division between observable behavior (acts, events, and processes) and functional interpretations (for example, running vs. fleeing from a predator). The NBO is organized rather differently and we would like the division in ABO to appear at least somewhere in NBO. NBO contains a sizable number of terms not relevant to the behavioral ecology community, just as ABO has terms that are not of current use to the model organism community. We identified a number of stakeholder projects who would be affected and could potentially benefit by the merger, including Virtual Fly Brain, Rat Genome Database, and the International Mouse Phenotype consortium and probably others.
Since the workshop we have had several conference calls with the NBO developers (George Gkoutos and Robert Hoehndorf) to refine the concerns of other stakeholders. Discussion made it clear that NBO is focussed on behavior phenotypes, rather than behavior processes. However, there was some interest in incorporating the ABO functional terms. The thought was that the remaining ABO terms (those referring to events, acts, and processes) should wind up in the Gene Ontology (GO). Several of us are working on the process of merging the functional terms into NBO, and separately, looking through the existing process terms in the GO. We may want to propose a behavior process ontology, at least as a parking place for terms that eventually are added to the GO.
Finally, we presented a poster at the SICB 2016 meeting in Portland, OR on January 6. We will continue to use opportunities like this to discuss the process and implications of this merger with the broader animal behavior and neuroscience communities. We are developing a set of case studies and have outlined a followup paper to highlight both the applications of the outcome of the merging process and lessons learned during that process.