Step 1: Survey
Find out what is already available in the domain you are interested in. While the perfect solution may not yet exist, it is important to contact people who share an interest in that domain and to learn from them (and gain their investment in using this ontology). Assess these ontologies critically and pass along your comments--effective groups welcome this feedback. If your domain of interest is not yet covered by any existing ontology, consider whether there might be a good reason for that.
Step 2: If ontology is active and applied, then ask to collaborate
As the primary goal of ontologies is interoperability, it is crucial that ontologies be shared by different groups. Ontology development is inherently a community exercise, and therefore collaboration is essential. In order for collaborations to work, your partners must be active and responsive. Likewise, applying the ontology to key data sets leads to fewer problems in the ontology and more commitment to fixing remaining problems because important research data that scientists depend upon is involved. All of the OBO Foundry contributors have agreed to be active and apply their ontologies.
Step 3: If a relevant, but moribund, ontology is found then learn from it
It is much more expedient to learn from previous work than to start from scratch. Build on whatever is already available whenever possible.
Step 4: Agree to sustained improvements
The only essential requirement for joining the OBO Foundry is the agreement to adopt and refine a set of principles that prove effective for ontology development in serving the biomedical research community.
Step 5: Email us
Let us know who you are and what you're doing--contact us . We look foward to hearing from you.