i2b2 Working Groups
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  • We draw a distinction between three terms used to name collections of concepts:  vocabulary, terminology and ontology. 
    • A vocabulary is a collection of terms, without any implied relationship between them. For example, a list of drugs on US market is a vocabulary of drugs. 
    • A terminology begins with a vocabulary and adds child-parent (“is-a”) relationships. For example, you introduce the notion of Antibiotics and group certain drugs under that. And beta-blockers. And so on.
    • An ontology goes one step further and introduces relationships other than is-a. For example, we can say that Acetaminophen “treats” headache. Here, “treats” is a relationship between the drug and a condition, and this relationship is not child-parent. That is what makes it an ontology.
  • So technically, an i2b2 ontology is a terminology. However, the term “i2b2 ontology” is an enduring convention which we will continue to agree to use.
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