A web-based application that integrates ~ 520 versions of 16 life science ontologies including the Gene Ontology, NCI Thesaurus and selected OBO ontologies with data leading back to 2002 in a common repository to explore ontology changes. It allows to study and apply the evolution of these integrated ontologies on three different levels.
* it provides global ontology evolution statistics
* it provides ontology-specific evolution trends for concepts and relationships.
* it allows the migration of annotations in case a new ontology version was released
BACKGROUND: Numerous ontologies have recently been developed in life sciences to support a consistent annotation of biological objects, such as genes or proteins. These ontologies underlie continuous changes which can impact existing annotations. Therefore, it is valuable for users of ontologies to study the stability of ontologies and to see how many and what kind of ontology changes occurred. RESULTS: We present OnEX (Ontology Evolution EXplorer) a system for exploring ontology changes. Currently, OnEX provides access to about 560 versions of 16 well-known life science ontologies. The system is based on a three-tier architecture including an ontology version repository, a middleware component and the OnEX web application. Interactive workflows allow a systematic and explorative change analysis of ontologies and their concepts as well as the semi-automatic migration of out-dated annotations to the current version of an ontology. CONCLUSION: OnEX provides a user-friendly web interface to explore information about changes in current life science ontologies. It is available at http://www.izbi.de/onex.
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