Modeled very much on Godwin’s law, “Watson’s law of bioinformatics ontologies” was first coined at TGAC during an ELIXIR/GOBLET workshop.

The law simply states:

"As the discussion regarding a particular bioinformatics topic gets longer, 
the probability that someone will suggest the group develops an ontology for 
that topic approaches 1"

Bioinformatics is awash with ontologies, including the sequence ontology and the gene ontology.  There is at least anecdotal evidence that neither is actually a true ontology.  There is also the suggestion that the gene ontology should only have two terms: “encodes for a protein”; and “encodes for an RNA”.  Function would then be defined by a Protein Ontology (PO) and RNA ontology (RO).

The particular discussion that inspired the “Watson’s law of bioinformatics ontologies” was around SASI, an ontology to describe events/announcements in the life sciences.

I would also like to suggest the very beginnings of a controlled vocabulary, possibly to be developed into an ontology, to describe bioinformaticians themselves.  The first two terms may be:

  • “has an interest in ontologies”
  • “has no interest in ontologies”

Comments welcome 🙂