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We discuss two types of requirements for handling metadata in BioPortal:

  1. the functional requirements are the set of calls from the user-interface (and web services) that metadata must support;
  2. the architectural requirements address the structure and evolution of metadata.

Functional requirements include support for all the current functionality for the metadata use in BioPortal and the future use that we are envisioning in various scenarios and use cases. Specific details on functional requirements are outlined here.

The following are the architectural requirements:

  • Represent metadata as ontology instances
  • Download metadata (and its various subsets) in RDF
  • Be able to update the metadata ontologies “on the fly”
    • Incremental updates, such as adding new properties, should be a simple “swap” of the metadata schema (the metadata ontology), without having to change any of the instances
  • Be flexible about which properties show up on the ontology metadata page and on the columns in the table on the “Browse” page (The metadata ontology itself will define the set of these metadata features. Thus, other groups that wish to install BioPortal locally will need to customize only the metadata ontology in order to custom-tailor their installations.)

Types of metadata in BioPortal

We represent the following types of metadata in BioPortal:

  1. Ontology metadata (e.g., the ontology domain and coverage, provenance information, version information, additional references, computable metadata, such as the number of classes and properties, etc.);
  2. Mappings between concepts in different ontologies;
  3. Ontology reviews along different review dimensions (e.g., domain coverage, usability, quality of content, etc.);
  4. Marginal notes on concepts and mappings in the ontologies containing users’ comments, questions, and discussions;
  5. Projects that use ontologies in BioPortal
  6. BioPortal Users

These different types of metadata are inter-linked. For example, each user is characterized by the metadata that they contribute; reviews can be created in the context of a particular projects; marginal notes can be attached to mappings.


Virtual ontologies: the list of ontologies in the repository, with one entry per each “logical” ontology. Basically, the list that appears on the “Browse” page in BioPortal.

Core metadata properties: metadata properties that appear on the “Ontology metadata” page. Not all properties associated with the ontology will generally appear there, as there are many minor ones that we don’t always want to display. Perhaps there can be a “more details” page that shows those.

Summary metadata properties: metadata properties that appear in the columns of the table on the “Browse” page and in the columns for versions and views on the metadata page for each ontology