BioPortal Help

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Help with the User Interface

Home Page

BioPortal provides access to commonly used biomedical ontologies and to tools for working with them. BioPortal allows you to

All information available through the BioPortal Web site is also available through the NCBO Web service REST API. Please see REST API documentation for more information.

Browse Tab

Here you can browse our library of Biomedical ontologies and can also submit your own ontology. The system displays some summary information about each ontology. More detailed summary information is available on the ontology summary page for each ontology. You can reach this page by clicking on the ontology name link.

To find a particular ontology quickly, begin typing the ontology name or abbreviation in the “Filter by Text” field. You can also narrow the list of ontologies shown by selecting a specific “category” (a domain) or a “group” to which the ontology belongs. To submit an ontology press the “Submit New Ontology” button. You must be logged in to BioPortal to submit an ontology. You can subscribe to receive RSS updates when any ontology in the system changes by clicking the subscribe link. You can subscribe to updates for a particular ontology from the summary page for that ontology. To go to the summary page click on the ontology name link.

Some submitters want to control who can browse the terms in their ontology. These ontologies are marked with visibility “Private” or “Licensed”. To browse the terms in these ontologies you must be both

  • logged in to BioPortal
  • granted access to the ontology

For private ontologies, the ontology submitter directly controls access to the ontology. Please contact the submitter to gain access to a private ontology. Contact information for the ontology is available on the ontology summary page. For licensed ontologies, the submitter indirectly controls access to the ontology. When you attempt to access a licensed ontology, the system will prompt you to enter the license information required by the submitter. When you have entered the required information, the system will allow you to access the ontology. In addition, there are "summary only" ontologies. The terms for these ontologies are not available in BioPortal at all. Please contact the ontology submitter for more information about these ontologies.

To access ontologies programmatically, see our Ontology REST API documentation.

Search Tab

The search capability allows you to enter some text and find terms across multiple terminologies that contain this text. The names, synonyms, properties for a term are searched for matches to the entered text.

To find a term in any ontology enter the full or partial name the term in the search box and simply hit the Search button. The system looks for matches in the term name, synonyms, term ids, and in property values. You can filter the returned values by ontology or by the type of match by selecting one of the filter links in the output table. If you want to search only in a subset of ontologies you can specify the desired ontologies in the Ontologies box. (Note that it is no faster to search a subset than to search all ontologies.) Simply type the ontology name or acronym to chose the desired ontology. You can also select a set of ontologies from a list of all ontologies using the “select from list” link.

To search programmatically see our Search REST API documentation.

Mappings Tab

Mappings are associations between two or more terms in different ontologies. This association typically, but not always, represents a degree of similarity between the terms. The author of the mapping defines the semantics of a particular mapping. It is also usual for a mapping to be bi-directional, but again, this is not required. The mapping author defines directionality.

To browse mappings for an ontology, select the ontology from the drop-down list. You will then see a table showing all ontologies for which at least one mapping exists between that ontology and the ontology you selected. Select an ontology from this table to browse the mappings between the two ontologies.

To access mappings programmatically, please see our Mappings REST API documentation.

Recommender Tab

The Ontology Recommender accepts a body of text and returns a ranked set of ontologies that most closely match the text. The ranking takes into account both how many terms from the text are in the ontology, and both the size of the ontology and its granularity with respect to the matched terms.

The ontology ranking algorithm is described in the paper Building an Ontology Recommender Web Service.

To retrieve ontology recommendations programmatically, please see our Ontology Recommender REST API documentation.

Annotator Tab

To annotate text directly with ontological terms, simply enter text in the box and press the submit button. The system matches words in the text to terms in ontologies by doing an exact string comparison (a “direct” match) between the text and ontology term names, synonyms, and ids.

In addition to the direct matches, the user may expand the set of matches by including matches from mapped terms and from hierarchical expansion. For most ontologies (OWL and UMLS RRF) the system performs the hierarchical expansion on the superclass (“is-a”) relationship. For OBO ontologies the hierarchical expansion also includes the part-of relationship. You use the “number of levels” field to control the number of levels up the hierarchy for which the system will return terms for a given match.

To create annotations programmatically see the Annotator REST API documentation.

Resource Index Tab

The resource index is a pre-calculated set of annotations of selected biomedical resources. We have annotated these resources with all terms in all BioPortal ontologies. To retrieve records for an ontology term, enter the term in the box and press the "Search" button.

To access annotations for resources programmatically, please see our Resource Index REST API documentation.

Projects Tab

This page shows selected projects which make use of BioPortal technology. To add your project to this list press the "Create New Project" button. You must be logged in to BioPortal to create a new project.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I cite NCBO and BioPortal

Noy NF, Shah NH, Whetzel PL, Dai B, Dorf M, Griffith N, Jonquet C, Rubin DL, Storey MA, Chute CG, Musen MA. BioPortal: ontologies and integrated data resources at the click of a mouse. Nucleic Acids Res. 2009 Jul 1;37(Web Server issue):W170-3. Epub 2009 May 29. PubMed PMID: 19483092; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2703982.

How can I submit an ontology to BioPortal

Go to the "Browse" page and press the "Submit Ontology" button near the top of the page.

Can can I view and edit notes

To view all notes for an ontology, chose the ontology from the Browse page and then select "Notes" from the drop-down list.

To view the notes for a particular term, navigate to the ontology and term (using the "Browse" tab and select the terms item from the dropdown) and then select the "Notes" tab in the right-hand panel.

How can I view and edit mappings

To view all mappings for an ontology, chose the ontology from the Browse page and then select "Mappings" from the drop-down list.

To view the notes for a particular term, navigate to the ontology and term (using the "Browse" tab and select the terms item from the dropdown) and then select the "Mappings" tab in the right-hand panel.

How can I view and edit reviews

Navigate to the ontology summary page by selecting the ontology name from the Browse tab. Create a review by pressing the "Create Review" button near the top of the page.


A concept in the domain of the ontology. Used within BioPortal, class is a synonym for term or concept.
(from SKOS documentation) A concept is an idea or notion; a unit of thought. However, what constitutes a unit of thought is subjective, and this definition is meant to be suggestive, rather than restrictive. The notion of a concept is useful when describing the conceptual or intellectual structure of a ontology, and when referring to specific ideas or meanings established within an ontology.
Abbreviation for "Concept Unique Identifier" for UMLS ontologies. This is the unique identifier for a UMLS "concept". All terms in UMLS ontologies are identified with one or more CUIs.
deprecated term 
synonym for "obsolete term" in some ontologies.
obsolete term 
A term that the authors of the ontology have flagged as being "obsolete" and which they recommend that people not use. These terms are often left in ontologies (rather than removing them entirely) so that existing systems that depend on them will continue to function.
Asserted relationship between two terms in different ontologies. The nature of the exact relationship is left to the mapping author. The most common relationship for mappings between terms is "same as".
preferred name 
Human readable label for a term that the authors of the ontology suggest be used when referring to the term. Alternate, non-preferred, names are synonyms.
Named association between two entities. Examples are "definition" (a relation between a term and some text) and "part-of" (a relation between two terms).
Biomedical resource (publication, database) that has been indexed with BioPortal ontologies.
Alternate name for a term. Every term has a single "preferred" name and may have any number of synonyms.
Concept in the domain of the ontology. Within BioPortal, term is a synonym for class or concept
term mappings 
Set of mappings for a given term to terms other ontologies.
term resources 
Set of resources that contain annotations for a given term.