The Evidence

        & Conclusion



Use the Evidence and Conclusion Ontology to support conclusions. The Evidence and Conclusion Ontology (ECO) is a controlled vocabulary that describes types of scientific evidence within the realm of biological research that can arise from laboratory experiments, computational methods, manual literature curation, and other means. Researchers can use these types of evidence to support assertions about research subjects that result from scientific research, such as scientific conclusions, gene annotations, or other statements of fact.

For example, a researcher might algorithmically compare the sequences of two proteins, one of known function and one of unknown function. After reviewing the results of this particular analysis, If the researcher decided that these two sequences were sufficiently similar, he or she might assign the same function of the known protein to the unknown protein. This is known as making an annotation.

An important part of the process of annotation involves documenting any evidence used in support of a given conclusion. In the example above, the researcher might use the Evidence Ontology term sequence alignment evidence (ECO:0000200) to document that the two protein sequences had been bioinformatically compared by aligning them together. Because the researcher cited evidence in support of the conclusion, other people looking at this annotation will know the basis upon which it was made.

Using a controlled vocabulary of evidence allows researchers to do other things like search for any annotation supported by a particular type of evidence; conversely, within the context of an appropriately configured annotation database framework, one could compare many similarly annotated things that might be supported by very different evidence types.

ECO terms describe diverse evidence types

Development and funding

ECO was originally created around the year 2000 to support gene product annotations by the Gene Ontology. Today ECO is used by many groups concerned with provenance in scientific research. Development of ECO is led by Marcus Chibucos and Michelle Giglio of the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in collaboration with members of the Gene Ontology and the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations, and driven by requests from users.

Funding. Previously, substantial funding has generously been provided by Owen White of the Institute for Genome Sciences. This work was also funded in part by Grant R01 GM089636 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health.

Funding is now provided by the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), National Science Foundation through Award Abstract #: 1458400

An ontology for making evidence statements

The Evidence and Conclusion Ontology (ECO) is a controlled vocabulary of terms that describe scientific evidence in the realm of biological research. ECO can be used to document both the evidence that supports a scientific conclusion and how that conclusion was recorded by a scientist, whether a person or a computer.

Welcome        History & Development        Visualize ECO       Download & Develop

Project links
The Ontology for Biomedical Investigations, an ECO collaborator
ECO on BioPortal, including visualization

ECO comprises two high-level classes, evidence and assertion method. Evidence is defined as a type of information that is used to support an assertion and assertion method is defined as a means by which a statement is made about an entity. Together evidence and assertion method can be used to describe both the support for a claim and whether that claim was made by a human being or a computer. (ECO is not used to formulate the claim/assertion/annotation itself; the assertion would take the form of a term from a different ontology, a free-text description, or some other construct.

Above, you can search for different types of evidence in ECO by term ID or by concept. Expand nodes by clicking on “+”. (Tree viewer is provided by NCBO Widgets for ECO at BioPortal.)