This document contains standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the OBO Foundry Operations Committee, and is intended for internal use only.


New Ontology Requests (NOR)

  1. When receiving a new ontology request (NOR), the OBO dashboard administrator should thank the submitter for their submission.
  2. The OBO dashboard administrator adds the new submission to the NOR dashboard, which is deployed at
  3. After the dashboard is run, the OBO dashboard administrator informs the submitter about the need to fix the issues revealed by the dashboard, noting this is not part of the review itself, just a precursor, and that upon completion, a liaison will be assigned.
  4. At the next OBO Foundry Operations Committee conference call (hereafter, “Operations call”), a liaison is selected to be responsible for the issue. This liaison becomes familiar with the new ontology and rallies the appropriate people to provide feedback.
  5. At the next Operations call after that one, the liaison presents the NOR to the OBO Foundry Operations Committee and answers questions. In most cases, the information provided will be sufficient to either grant or refuse the prefix request. In some cases, the committee may choose to postpone its decision to require some clarification and fixes from the submitter. The liaison MUST be present at the Operations call in order for the NOR case to be discussed. If the liaison does not participate for 2 consecutive Operations calls, the chair of the second call emails the liaison to request a statement confirming the ability to continue as liaison. If the liaison does not participate in 3 consecutive Operations calls and did not respond to the email above, a new liaison is assigned during that third call.

Reviewing Ontologies for OBO Membership

The goal of this SOP is to provide a clear set of criteria to be checked for the manual review of an ontology in response to a request to register that new ontology with the OBO Foundry. It is expected that a programmatic review using the Dashboard has already been done and the submitters have addressed any problems found. The purpose of the manual review is to check the ontology for issues that the Dashboard review does not cover. A sample of terms/axioms should be checked. In order for this review to be relatively quick (~ 2 hours), the reviewer is not expected to review all the terms/axioms.

Check the following and provide a brief summary in the tracker issue for the new ontology request. All items of feedback must be provided using GitHub checklist syntax (- [ ] TODO) in order to track how far along they are in being addressed. Addressable issues identified as part of the review should be added to the new ontology’s issue tracker.

  1. Ontology scope. The new ontology must present use cases demonstrating its relevance to the life sciences. Was the ontology developed using expert input or trusted scientific sources representative of the consensus in its target domain of knowledge? If the ontology was developed for a very specific purpose or community, representation and consensus need not be broad; however, this scope should be clearly stated.
  2. Terms with the new ontology prefix. There MUST NOT be a term with the same meaning available in another OBO Foundry ontology, ie there must not be a term referring to a concept that already exists in another OBO Foundry ontology (whether or not the label is identical). There SHOULD NOT be another OBO Foundry ontology whose scope covers any of the new terms. In the event that these conditions cannot be fulfilled, justification(s) MUST be provided. Such justification(s) include:
    • the demonstration that these terms are actually not the same (this happens when term meaning/concept is ambiguous); or
    • the other OBO Foundry ontology (for which the terms were in scope) was contacted and rejected the request for adding new terms in scope for that ontology.
  3. Correct use of imported terms. Does the ontology accurately reuse terms from other OBO ontologies? Are imported terms in appropriate hierarchies? That is, has the import of the term preserved its upper-level alignment? Are any additional axioms used for these terms correct in both a technical (e.g. passes reasoning) and substantive sense?
  4. Basic review of axiomatic patterns: Are existential restrictions used correctly? Typical mistakes include “R some (A and B and C)” to mean “(R some A and R some B and R some C)” Are axioms generally highly complex? If so, we should review a handful to ensure they are as intended.
  5. Appropriate use of object properties. Examples of incorrect usage include those based on some interpretation of the label of the object property but not actually fitting the property definition or domain and range. A typical example of incorrect usage is R some (A and B and C) to mean R some A and R some B and R some C.
  6. Responsiveness to fixing changes. A willingness to fix any identified issues during the review must be demonstrated. Issues expected to be addressed should be added using GitHub checklist syntax (- [ ] TODO) in the GitHub issue. The time limit for addressing these is 2 months; a longer period should be requested if needed.

Ontology Acceptance Notification

Once a new ontology has been accepted, the following should be used as a template for letting the ontology owner know that, and informing them about the next steps they should take.

The ontology owner should be notified in the ticket and also by email (they were required to supply their email address as part of their new ontology request), ccing obo-discuss & obo-operations-committee.

“Thank you again for your ontology submission to the OBO Foundry. We are happy to inform you that your ontology (YOURID) has been accepted following discussion in the OBO Operations Committee meeting, YYYY-MM-DD. Before we can add it to the OBO ontology registry you need to complete the following steps.

Create a metadata record for your ontology to be included in the registry:

  1. Create a new file in, called (there is an “Add file” button in the top right).
  2. Obtain the already curated metadata that relates to your ontology from (you’ll need to scroll down to locate yours; it will have your prefix in the “ - id:” field.)
  3. Create a pull request to add the metadata record. This pull request should include a link to this issue (the New Ontology Request issue).

Here is an example record for the PATO ontology:

Your metadata will be reviewed and merged by a member of the OBO Foundry Operations Committee. Permissible content for fields is being documented here.

To create a PURL registry entry for your ontology:

  1. Go to, click “Add file” and add a file named YOURID.yml.
  2. Add the desired configuration.
  3. Make a pull request with a link to this issue See here for an example of a PURL yml file: “

Changing ontology metadata in the registry

In general, the metadata record of an ontology in the OBO Foundry metadata registry (example) is managed and curated by the ontology team that is responsible for the respective ontology. However, as an open data organisation, the OBO Foundry does accept proposals by any member of the community to change this metadata. Such change proposal can include fixing typos, adding a tag, adding a publication where it was missed. The following SOP exists to ensure that these changes are not performed without the knowledge of the responsible ontology team.

  1. Any member of the community (OBO Foundry or otherwise) may propose a change in the form of a pull request.
  2. This pull request is reviewed by a member of the OBO Foundry operations committee and may be rejected.
  3. To prevent undue delays to website development, if the proposed change affects merely the presentation of the web page (for example, information is moved from one section of the website to another, URLs are changed from http to https, there is a change in the display/formatting of a page, typos) the OBO Foundry Operations Committee member may choose to accept the pull request without waiting for further review. In such case, the following steps may be ignored.
  4. The OBO Foundry operations committee member MUST then tag the listed contact person using their GitHub handle on the pull request requesting a review (initial request for feedback).
  5. After two weeks without activity, an OBO Foundry operations committee member will update the pull request and announce a prospective merge date no earlier than two weeks in the future.
  6. After at least 4 weeks have passed since the initial request for review:
    • If the change pertains to one of the following metadata fields, an OBO Foundry operations committee member MUST send an email to the listed contact with a link to the pull request: activity_status, contact.
    • If the change pertains to any change other than the above, the OBO Foundry operations committee member MAY merge the pull request at their own discretion.
  7. If at least 3 months have passed after the initial request for feedback, and the above conditions are met, any OBO Foundry operations committee member MAY merge the pull request at their own discretion.

For a discussion on this SOP, see here.

Becoming a member of the OBO Operations Committee

The current processes of nomination, acceptance and onboarding are described here.

Chairing an OBO Operations Committee meeting call

Before the call (a day or two in advance):

  1. Prepare a stub in the OBO Operations Committee (OFOC) rolling agenda with the following Repeating Agenda Items:

    1. Check for pending members for obo-discuss
    2. Get volunteers to sign up to lead upcoming meetings (if needed)
    3. Review new ontology requests
    4. Report from Editorial Working Group (EWG) (Darren)
    5. Report from Technical Working Group (TWG) (Nico)
    6. Review additional open issues and pull requests that are labeled “attn: OFOC call”
  2. Check the issues labeled “attn:OFOC call” found at the OBO foundry github repository. Pick one or two open issues you deem important and put them towards the end of the stub agenda, after the Working Group reports and before the review of additional open issues.
  3. Send an email to obo-operations-committee @ (not obo-discuss!) with the subject “OBO Operations Committee meeting” and the following text given between quotes:

    “I am chairing this week’s OFOC meeting. The Zoom link is given in the agenda document (see below).

    Please review

    Please also add agenda items to”

During the call:

  1. Wait until approximately 8-10 people have joined. Begin no more than 4-5 minutes after the hour regardless of how many people are present.
  2. Share your screen to show the agenda, greet the attendees, and drive the agenda. (You don’t have to show your face, but some people choose to do so. It is up to you).
  3. It is important to keep the discussion on track:
    1. If it appears that the group will not reach consensus after long discussion of a particular item, you (or one of the primary participants in the discussion) should politely summarize the discussion and call for agreement on next steps so that the next item on the agenda can be addressed.
    2. Be aware that sometimes not every agenda item can be discussed in a single meeting. It is more important that the items that do get addressed are discussed fully.
  4. Add notes to the agenda capturing important discussion points, summaries, decisions made, action items (with assignees), and next steps. These can be brief but it is important to capture what has been discussed and/or decided so that the group doesn’t forget. Don’t worry if it takes a little time. Make note of any new issues (or comments on existing issues) that are needed; these will be done after the call.
  5. End the call on time. Don’t start new topics too close to the end or let discussions drag on after the hour.
  6. Thank everyone for taking the time to attend!

After the call:

  1. Make a pass through the minutes for the purposes of streamlining, formatting, and providing clarity.
  2. Make sure that all new issues are logged on GitHub. Add comments to all GitHub issues that were discussed, as appropriate.

For a discussion on this SOP, see here.