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onto-builder.gifThe Onto-Builder is a web based software tool for the development of data dictionaries.


In the management process of clinical trials different physicians (e.g. pathologist, radiotherapist) and medical facilities are involved. These experts handle a large amount of data which is not uniformly defined and documented. To overcome the problem of inconsistencies in the understanding of medical terms and interpretation of data it is necessary to build up a semantically founded data dictionary.

In the first step we have implemented a data dictionary, which is substantially based on an entity relationship model with concepts, relations and descriptions. In the second step we develop a data dictionary with different context-dependent descriptions of concepts and context-dependent relations.

Through the usage of a common data dictionary for all physicians and medical facilities involved we want to achieve the following goals:

  • Reusability of terms and their meanings e.g. in the definition of new trials
  • Harmonization of the study-centre databases within the Lymphoma Alliance
  • Quality assurance in carrying out clinical trials
  • Uniform reference of terms for all trial-specific applications e.g. entry masks
  • Uniform reference of terms for the definition of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) within the Lymphoma Alliance
  • Harmonization of trial protocols and case report forms

Research Program

With Onto-Builder we have developed the first software tool in the modular software system for constructing and using semantically founded data dictionaries. The following further steps are envisioned:

  • The development of a procedure for constructing semantically founded data dictionaries
  • The conception of data dictionary models
  • The evaluation of suitable modeling languages (see Conceptual Modeling)
  • The development of an interface for a symbol-based modeling language
  • The collection and semantic analysis of terms and concepts in the field of clinical trials
  • The development of criteria for separating generic and domain-specific concepts
  • The definition of context-dependent concepts and processes and their relating attributes (e.g. qualities) and relations
  • The conception and implementation of additional software tools for constructing and using data dictionaries in the field of medicine

The software tool Onto-Builder is being conducted within the context of subproject 2 "Telematics and Computer-based Quality Management in a Communication Network" at the Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology (IMISE), University of Leipzig. This subproject is sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Malignant Lymphoma Competence Network.


The Onto-Builder (Version 1.1) is an internet-based software-tool accessible through all current web browsers without any additional installations. The Onto-Builder has been implemented with the PHP scripting language and is capable of holding several data dictionaries centrally in relational databases. The Onto-Builder's configuration (user-administration and dynamic database-selection) over a directory service (LDAP) provides for organisation-specific access to the data dictionaries.

At the moment a re-implementation of Onto-Builder (Version 2) is in progress based upon the knowledge engineering tool OntoWiki.