IFOW 2021 Integrated Food Ontology Workshop, September 15-18, Bolzano Italy

This is a call for presentation and poster abstracts directly in the 2nd Integrated Food Ontology Workshop (IFOW) at the 12th International Conference on Biomedical Ontologies September 15-18, 2021 (ICBO, https://icbo2021.inf.unibz.it/) in Bolzano Italy, which will be a hybrid virtual and on-site conference. It is held as part of the overall Joint Ontology Workshops (JOWO, https://www.iaoa.org/jowo/2021/) event. Details of this workshop presentation and discussion schedule are below and on https://foodon.org/ifow-2021-workshop/.  An EasyChair submission website will be set up for submissions shortly.

The IFOW 2021 workshop will occur on 2 days, with 2 sessions on each day. Each session will involve an hour of presentations, and roughly an hour of discussion and break as the schedule allows. A poster session will promote other food ontology project and research updates. 

IFOW 2021 abstract types and their deadlines (full length and early career deadlines match ICBO requirements) :

For presentation in IFOW session (roughly 10 minutes):

  • 5 May 2021: Full length research paper (~12 pages, published in ICBO conference proceedings)
  • 26 May 2021: Early career submission (~6 pages, published in ICBO conference proceedings)
  • 26 May 2021: Short abstract (2 pages, not included in ICBO conference proceedings)

Poster abstract for the IFOW poster session (not included in ICBO conference proceedings):

  • 16 June 2021

For ICBO publication requirements see bottom of https://icbo2021.inf.unibz.it/call-for-papers/. Note: if you want to present in the main ICBO conference, submit your abstract directly to ICBO for review; you may also provide a short abstract for a 10 minute presentation in IFOW which will then be reviewed independently.

We invite abstracts for talks about:

  • Ontology related food and nutrition research projects.
  • Agricultural practice related ontology work regarding treatments, monitoring, ecosystems, etc.
  • Ontology-driven data science initiatives within agencies regarding food security, sustainability, pathogen or contaminant surveillance, and One Health (https://www.who.int/features/qa/one-health/en/) initiatives.
  • More interactive workshops such as a blind taste test that could be carried out within the conference space, and which have a sensory, nutrition or other ontology connection.  Treat conference-goers as one of your consumer taste test lab cohorts! 


Controlled vocabulary standardization efforts covering agricultural and food domains are evolving since their inception decades ago thanks to the mandates and continued support of institutional caretakers. Popular examples are FoodEx2, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) food classification and description system, the Global Language of Business GS1 product categorization scheme, the EUROFIR promoted LanguaL food composition thesaurus, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s AGROVOC SKOS-based vocabulary, and its support of the International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) vocabulary for food nutrition testing. These vocabularies are used in a growing interconnected food database landscape but suffer from format issues like textual or spreadsheet formats, unresolvable identifiers, and inconsistent category semantics. 

Ontologies are new entrants into the food domain, bringing a wave of Semantic Web technology and philosophy to bear on the issue of data sharing and modeling of food-related activity and research which are becoming critical in the face of rapid change to our environment and anthroposphere. Examples range from BBC’s Food Ontology, driving its culinary media universe, to recent research laboratory initiated ontologies like OBOFoundry members FoodOn, the Food Biomarker Ontology (FOBI), the Ontology for Nutritional Studies (ONS), the Ontology for Nutritional Epidemiology (ONE), the Food Interactions with Drugs Evidence Ontology(FIDEO), and the Crop Dietary Nutrition Ontology (CDNO). Underpinning these mid-level, model-focused ontologies are environmental, chemical, biological, anatomical, disease and phenotype ontologies. 

Academic, agricultural and public health agencies are considering the benefits and complexities of adopting ontology in their research and data management and reporting infrastructure. How can ontologies interface to legacy datasets and online databases described by existing vocabularies? What vocabulary, tool ecosystem and data models are needed to correlate agricultural treatments, nutritional data, eating patterns, biomarkers, pathogens, and phytochemical levels with disease and health phenotypes? Encouraged by the success of the inaugural 2020 IFOW workshop, this second round in 2021 will explore the evolution of food-related ontologies as they integrate ecological, agricultural, nutritional, dietary, public health, one health surveillance, food security, and trade domain vocabulary, and the use of curation, validation, mapping and visualization tools for food ontology maintenance.


The following presentation and discussion session themes try to capture the diversity of human food system activity:Field to food: Food component modelling

Field to Food: Food component modelling

This session follows the ontological description of food from its inception in wild and agricultural contexts up to the point of food product nomenclature. How should agricultural field studies be modelled, and can this adapt to commercial farm data collection? One of the challenges with agricultural field modelling is having to rely on estimated (or subjective) vs actual data since proper measurements occur in limited circumstances. A second challenge is collecting data from farms with heterogeneous practices in large, remote areas in a way respecting privacy. Use of agricultural chemicals and their potential inclusion in food products must also be considered. Another challenge for research, food traceability and correct product labelling is that product vocabulary varies by region, language and industry, a situation which ontologies should help to alleviate. Another formidable challenge is the ontology modelling of food biochemistry of plants and animal products, including their biotransformation from fungi, and bacteria, and how they are taken in the body through dietary eating patterns. Modelling of bioactive food related compounds requires a schema for nutrients, additives, and contaminants, as well as diet terms and regimens.

Food in the Body: Modelling metabolic transformation of food and exposure to food-borne toxicants

Can we model the complex web of metabolic transformations leading from food components to beneficial bioactives for health maintenance or improvement? This session welcomes contributions dealing with ontology modeling of bioactive molecules derived and/or modified from food components by human and animal metabolism, by gut microbiome metabolism, and their synergy. We include xenobiotic metabolism and exposure through food as well. Finally, a major component of human diet is in fermented foods, so modelling the role of microbial fermentations from pure culture or microbial communities and the metabolic interactions between the components of the microbial web is important. Food allergen and other linkages between food components and disease phenotypes are also needed.

In the agency: Ontology ecosystem to support research and operational adoption

The promise that ontology will fix data interoperability carries possible failure points along a two-directional dependency chain. First is term curation, then dataset curation by trained agency staff according to selected vocabulary and design patterns, then the provision of that data to federated querying or consolidated databases, and lastly, users tasked with querying and learning about what are potentially very complex data structures. Are success stories accumulating as ontology identifiers surface within a diversity of databases?

Tools for ontology building, machine learning, quality metrics, and database integration

Given the complexity of integrating ontology into databases and applications, and the aspiration to provide high-quality internally coherent vocabulary, there is a pressing need to develop quality control, machine-learning-driven content suggestion, and content-matching tools, and demonstrate the benefit of applications that are fully driven by ontology.

We encourage people to consider this an opportunity to meet and connect with peers from interrelated disciplines, and to discover the full breadth of ontology research occurring in the food domain. For more information contact [damion_dooley@sfu.ca].

IFOW 2021 Organizing Committee

Lauren ChanOregon State University
Damion DooleyPublic Health Bioinformatics Lab, Simon Fraser University
Gurinder Pal GosalPublic Health Bioinformatics Lab, Simon Fraser University
Robert WarrenMyra Analytics 
Jessica SingerMyra Analytics
Hande Kucuk McGintyOU / USDA
Duccio CalveroUniversity of Florence
Larisa SoldatovaGoldsmiths, University of London
Chen YangUniversity of Gent

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