Ontology of active and passive environmental exposure

Tracking #: 3546-4760

Csilla Vamos
Simon Scheider
Tabea Sonnenschein
Roel Vermeulen

Responsible editor: 
Cogan Shimizu

Submission type: 
Full Paper
Exposure is a central concept of the health and behavioural sciences needed to study the influence of the environment on the health and behaviour of people within a spatial context. While an increasing number of studies measure different forms of exposure, including the influence of air quality, noise, and crime, the influence of land cover on physical activity, or of the urban environment on food intake, we lack a common conceptual model of environmental exposure that captures its main structure across all this variety. Against the background of such a model, it becomes possible not only to systematically compare different methodological approaches but also to better link and align the content of the vast amount of scientific publications on this topic in a systematic way. For example, an important methodical distinction is between studies that model exposure as an exclusive outcome of some activity versus ones where the environment acts as a direct independent cause active vs. passive exposure. Here, we propose an information ontology design pattern that can be used to define exposure and to model its variants. It is built around causal relations between concepts including persons, activities, concentrations, exposures, environments and health risks. We formally define environmental stressors and variants of exposure using Description Logic (DL), which allows automatic inference from the RDF-encoded content of a paper. Furthermore, concepts can be linked with data models and modelling methods used in a study. To test the pattern, we translated competency questions into SPARQL queries and ran them over RDF-encoded content. Results show how study characteristics can be classified and summarized in a manner that reflects important methodical differences.
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Solicited Reviews:
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Review #1
Anonymous submitted on 22/Sep/2023
Review Comment:

The authors have addressed all my concerns. Thus, I recommend accepting this paper.

Review #2
Anonymous submitted on 03/Dec/2023
Minor Revision
Review Comment:

The authors have made commendable efforts in addressing the reviewers' comments,
resulting in a significantly improved manuscript. However, a few minor revisions
are still needed to enhance clarity and consistency.
1. EnvironmentalFactor vs. Environment Clarification:
The authors have provided a reasonable explanation for merging
EnvironmentalFactor and Environment, citing the difficulty in making this
distinction in annotation practice. While this justification is acceptable, it
would be beneficial to add a brief note in Section 4.1.2 summarizing this
explanation to ensure the reader fully grasps the decision-making process.
2. Introduction of Exposome NL Project:
The addition of information about the Exposome NL project is appreciated. To
further enhance the motivation behind the article selection, the authors might
consider briefly describing some key scenarios modeled in the project and the
standard literature associated with them. This could provide a clearer
connection between the chosen articles and the project's objectives.
3. Temporal Modeling Note:
The note about the preliminary status of temporal modeling is appreciated. To
further contextualize this decision, a brief statement could be added explaining
why temporal modeling is considered beyond the current scope but may be a
valuable avenue for future research.
In summary, the manuscript has made substantial improvements based on the
reviewers' feedback. The suggested minor revisions aim to refine certain aspects
further and ensure a seamless reading experience. Overall, the authors have
demonstrated a thorough and thoughtful response to the reviewers' comments, and
the paper is on the right track for publication with these minor refinements.

Review #3
Anonymous submitted on 03/Jan/2024
Review Comment:

The authors have taken into consideration the feedback that was provided previously and addressed all issues. The readability and clarity of the paper are significantly better now. The revised figures, tables, and axiom formatting look good too. The authors have also addressed all the technical concerns that were pointed out in the previous review. Having said that, some of the revised axioms (specifically 4) still seem slightly restrictive in my opinion for the general domain, but the explanation provided by the authors in their response form seems convincing enough. Moreover, I find that the authors have also included a detailed explanation concerning these axiomatic restrictions in this version of the paper. The resource file also matches the axioms that are revised in the paper. I think that the paper reads well now at this stage and is ready to be accepted.