Basic formal ontology

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The basic formal ontology (BFO) is a formal ontological framework developed by Barry Smith and his associates that consists in a series of sub-ontologies at different levels of granularity.[1] The ontologies are divided into two varieties: continuant (or snapshot) ontologies, comprehending continuant entities such as three-dimensional enduring objects, and occurrent ontologies, comprehending processes conceived as extended through (or as spanning) time. BFO thus incorporates both three-dimensionalist and four-dimensionalist perspectives on reality within a single framework. Interrelations are defined between the two types of ontologies in a way which gives BFO the facility to deal with both static/spatial and dynamic/temporal features of reality. Each continuant ontology is an inventory of all entities existing at a time. Each occurrent ontology is an inventory (processory) of all the processes unfolding through a given interval of time. Both types of ontology serve as basis for a series of sub-ontologies, each of which can be conceived as a window on a certain portion of reality at a given level of granularity.


BFO has been adopted as a foundational ontology by many projects, principally in the areas of biomedical ontology and security and defense (intelligence) ontology.[1] An example application of BFO can be seen in the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI).

See also


  1. ^ a b "Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) – Home". Retrieved 6 May 2017. 

Further reading

  • Arp, R., Smith, B., and Spear, A. D. Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, August 2015, xxiv + 220pp.
  • Thomas Bittner, Maureen Donnelly and Barry Smith, "A Spatio-Temporal Ontology for Geographic Information Integration", International Journal for Geographical Information Science, 23 (6), 2009, 765–798
  • Grenon, P. and Smith, B. (2004) “SNAP and SPAN: Towards Dynamic Spatial Ontology”, Spatial Cognition and Computation, 4:1, 69–103.
  • Ludger Jansen, "Tendencies and other Realizables in Medical Information Sciences"
  • Katherine Munn, Barry Smith (Eds.), Applied Ontology: An Introduction, Ontos Verlag.
  • Fabian Neuhaus, Pierre Grenon, Barry Smith, A Formal Theory of Substances, Qualities, and Universals
  • Luc Schneider, Revisiting the Ontological Square
  • Smith, B. and Grenon, P. (2004) “The Cornucopia of Formal-Ontological Relations", Dialectica, 58:3, 279–296.
  • Barry Smith, Werner Ceusters, Bert Klagges, Jacob Köhler, Anand Kumar, Jane Lomax, Chris Mungall, Fabian Neuhaus, Alan Rector and Cornelius Rosse: "Relations in Biomedical Ontologies", Genome Biology (2005), 6 (5), R46
  • Smith, B. and Ceusters, W. (2010) "Ontological Realism as a Methodology for Coordinated Evolution of Scientific Ontologies"[permanent dead link], Applied Ontology, 5 (2010), 139–188.

External links

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