Clinical technologies project
Generalized Architecture for Languages, Encyclopaedias
and Nomenclatures in medicine

keywords main objectives
Clinical coding and classification, medical terminologies, terminology server, controlled vocabulary, nomenclature, semantic processing, description logics, compositional representations, intermediate representations, open source, ontologies Common Reference Model for medical terminologies, re-usable, multilingual, language independent, GRAIL, KnoME, OpenKnoME, Classification Workbench, Clinergy

OpenGALEN The development and dissemination of terminology models, methods, architectures and tools for clinical applications.
GALEN was concerned with the computerisation of clinical terminologies. It developed enabling technologies to:
  • "allow clinical information to be captured, represented, manipulated, and displayed in a radically more powerful way " [Rector]
  • and
  • support re-use of information to integrate medical records, decision support and other clinical systems.
  • This concern with the computerisation of clinical terminologies led to the replacement of the static hierarchy of traditional clinical terminologies with a description logic to help make them reusable and therefore better support computerised medical applications using clinical terminology.

    The GALEN project established the ontology and GRAIL formalism and demonstrated the feasibility of the concepts; GALEN-IN-USE developed the Common Reference Model (CRM) for Medical Procedures - a key element for architectures for interworking between medical records, decision support, information retrieval and natural language processing systems in healthcare. OpenGALEN was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit organisation to provide information on GALEN technologies and relevant software distributors and, in particular, to maintain and disseminate the CRM.

    GALEN ran from 1992-5 supported by the EU 3rd Framework Health Telematics programme; GALEN-IN-USE ran from 1996-1999 supported by the EU 4th Framework programme.

    The CRM is released under the GALEN Open Source License.

     bullet  OpenGALEN  bullet   GALEN published papers

    Demonstrations and downloads of GALEN models, methods, architectures and tools - information on OpenClinical.


     bullet   Clinergy [OC]


     bullet   Common Reference Model [OC]  bullet   GALEN Representation and Integration Language (GRAIL) [OC]  bullet   Knowledge Management Environment (OpenKnoME) [OC]  bullet   Kermanog Classification Workbench [OC]


    Rector AL, Rogers JE, Zanstra PE, Van Der Haring E. OpenGALEN: Open Source Medical Terminology and Tools. Proc AMIA Symp. 2003; : 982.

    Abstract " The GALEN programme of research into medical terminology began in 1991. In 1999 OpenGALEN was formed to provide an open source route both for disseminating the results of that programme and as a framework for its future development. Currently available open source resources include a sophisticated ontology development environment and a large open source description logic-based ontology for the medical domain. "
    Rogers J, Roberts A, Solomon D, van der Haring E, Wroe C, Zanstra P, Rector A. GALEN ten years on: tasks and supporting tools. Medinfo. 2001; 10(Pt 1): 256-60.

    Abstract " The GALEN technology has matured over more than a decade of use. We describe a set of software tools and associated methodologies that together are supporting ontological engineering in a production, rather than a research setting. "
    Rector AL. Clinical Terminology: Why is it so hard? Methods of Information in Medicine 1999;38:239-252.

    [PubMed]   []

    Abstract " Despite years of work, no re-usable clinical terminology has yet been demonstrated in widespread use. This paper puts forward ten reasons why developing such terminologies is hard. All stem from underestimating the change entailed in using terminology in software for 'patient centred' systems rather than for its traditional functions of statistical and financial reporting. Firstly, the increase in scale and complexity are enormous. Secondly, the resulting scale exceeds what can be managed manually with the rigour required by software, but building appropriate rigorous representations on the necessary scale is, in itself, a hard problem. Thirdly, 'clinical pragmatics'--practical data entry, presentation and retrieval for clinical tasks--must be taken into account, so that the intrinsic differences between the needs of users and the needs of software are addressed. This implies that validation of clinical terminologies must include validation in use as implemented in software. "
    Rector AL, Nowlan WA. The GALEN project. Comput Methods Programs Biomed. 1994 Oct; 45(1-2): 75-8.

    Abstract " The GALEN project is developing language independent concept representation systems as the foundations for the next generation of multilingual coding systems. It aims to support the flexibility required to cope with the diversity amongst medical applications, while ensuring the coherence necessary for integration and re-use of terminologies. GALEN is developing a fully compositional and generative formal system for modelling concepts: the GALEN Representation and Integration Language (GRAIL) Kernel. Its goal is to overcome many of the problems with traditional coding and classification systems, in particular the combinatorial explosion of terms in enumerative systems and the generation of nonsensical terms in partially compositional systems. It will also provide a clean separation between the concept model and linguistic mechanisms which interpret that model (i.e., the words in a specific language, syntax, alternative phrasings, etc.) in order to allow the development of multilingual systems. GRAIL aims to be formally sound and produce models that are verifiable and contain no contradictions or ambiguities, with realistic human effort. A Coding Reference (CORE) Model of medical terminology covering is being developed which aims to represent the core concepts in for example pathology, anatomy and therapeutics, that have widespread applicability in medical applications. It should also provide the basis for specialist extensions according to the formal principles of GRAIL. The main results of GALEN will be delivered as a Terminology Server (TeS) which encapsulates and coordinates the functionality of the concept module, multilingual module, and code conversion module, and also provides a uniform applications programming interface and network services for use by external applications. "

    start date end date location support
    Continuing as OpenGALEN, founded in 1999. EU EU 3rd Framework Health Telematics programme (GALEN, 1992-1995); EU 4th Framework (GALEN-IN-USE, 1996-9).
    contact Website
    OpenGALEN, GALEN and GALEN-IN-USE publications and websites.
    Entry in directory: 4 January 2004
    Last main update: 7 February 2004;

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