Which methods are the most effective in enabling novice users to participate in ontology creation? A usability study

Limin Zhang, Xingyi Yang, Zuleima Cota, Hong Cui, Bruce Ford, Hsin Liang Chen, James A. MacKlin, Anton Reznicek, Julian Starr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Producing findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) data cannot be accomplished solely by data curators in all disciplines. In biology, we have shown that phenotypic data curation is not only costly, but it is burdened with inter-curator variation. We intend to propose a software platform that would enable all data producers, including authors of scientific publications, to produce ontologized data at the time of publication. Working toward this goal, we need to identify ontology construction methods that are preferred by end users. Here, we employ two usability studies to evaluate effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction with a set of four methods that allow an end user to add terms and their relations to an ontology. Thirty-three participants took part in a controlled experiment where they evaluated the four methods (Quick Form, Wizard, WebProtégé and Wikidata) after watching demonstration videos and completing a hands-on task. Another think-aloud study was conducted with three professional botanists. The efficiency effectiveness and user confidence in the methods are clearly revealed through statistical and content analyses of participants' comments. Quick Form, Wizard and WebProtégé offer distinct strengths that would benefit our author-driven FAIR data generation system. Features preferred by the participants will guide the design of future iterations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbaab035
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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