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[protege-owl] the counterpart of primary key in relational db forowl?

Alan Ruttenberg alanruttenberg at
Wed Jan 30 07:22:32 PST 2008

While some of the biological community uses LSIDs, there is some  
difference of opinion in the community about whether this should be  
the practice going forward. The alternative that is offered, and  
which can serve your purpose as well, is to us a URI as the "key". In  
fact, the URI (http://....) was designed as a way to uniquely  
identify web resources, and in later proposals, as way to identify  
anything at all.

Since URI's are intended to denote things, and things, in the sense  
of OWL, are instances, there is no need to use a string as an  
identifier and use inverse functional dataype properties. You can,  
instead use a regular inverse functional (object) property. As an  
example of how we have done this in the case of some work of  
integrating metabolic pathway databases, which is done in part by  
having compounds in each of the separate databases "smushed" by  
having the same identifier (e.g. KEGG) see 

In the working group that is discussing OWL 1.1, there is also a  
proposal on the table for "Easy keys" which is a restricted form of  
using inverse functional datatype properties. The proposal is at Note, however, that we have  
not yet determined whether it will be incorporated for OWL 1.1


On Jan 30, 2008, at 4:10 AM, C. Forbes Dewey, Jr. wrote:

> Jun,
> The biological community that uses tools of the World Wide Web has  
> adopted an ID called the LSID, or Life Sciences IDentifier.  See  
> the 2004 paper by Tim Clark et al. that is enclosed.  It is a very  
> successful method and is easy to use.
> Forbes Dewey
> Martin.Georg.Skjaeveland at wrote:
>>> Hello everyone,
>>> I'd like to know whether it is possible to restrict a
>>> property in owl, so that it could be used to uniquely
>>> identify its domain concepts, similar like what primary key
>>> in relational database does. What I want to state in owl is
>>> for example:
>>> No two products should have the same serial number. Could I
>>> do it in owl or is there some other way to express this?
>>> Thanks a lot in advance.
>> Hi Jun,
>> You could use InverseFunctionalProperty [1]. However, note that  
>> "OWL DL does not permit InverseFunctional to be applied to  
>> DatatypeProperty".
>> [1]
>> Regards,
>> Martin.
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> -- 
> C. Forbes Dewey, Jr.                                             
> cfdewey at <mailto:cfdewey at>
> Professor of Mechanical Engineering                      Phone:  
> 617-253-2235
>            and Bioengineering                                    
> Fax: 617-258-8559
> Co-Director, International Consortium
>              for Medical Imaging Technology               Room 3-254
> Massachusetts Institute of Technology
> Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
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