Towards a Fuzzy Expert System on Toxicological Data Quality Assessment
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KeywordsFuzzy expert systems; Klimisch approach; Quality (reliability) assessment; Reach; ToxRTool; Toxicological data; in silico Modelling
Quality assessment (QA) requires high levels of domain-specific experience and knowledge. QA tasks for toxicological data are usually performed by human experts manually, although a number of quality evaluation schemes have been proposed in the literature. For instance, the most widely utilised Klimisch scheme1 defines four data quality categories in order to tag data instances with respect to their qualities; ToxRTool2 is an extension of the Klimisch approach aiming to increase the transparency and harmonisation of the approach. Note that the processes of QA in many other areas have been automatised by employing expert systems. Briefly, an expert system is a computer program that uses a knowledge base built upon human expertise, and an inference engine that mimics the reasoning processes of human experts to infer new statements from incoming data. In particular, expert systems have been extended to deal with the uncertainty of information by representing uncertain information (such as linguistic terms) as fuzzy sets under the framework of fuzzy set theory and performing inferences upon fuzzy sets according to fuzzy arithmetic. This paper presents an experimental fuzzy expert system for toxicological data QA which is developed on the basis of the Klimisch approach and the ToxRTool in an effort to illustrate the power of expert systems to toxicologists, and to examine if fuzzy expert systems are a viable solution for QA of toxicological data. Such direction still faces great difficulties due to the well-known common challenge of toxicological data QA that "five toxicologists may have six opinions". In the meantime, this challenge may offer an opportunity for expert systems because the construction and refinement of the knowledge base could be a converging process of different opinions which is of significant importance for regulatory policy making under the regulation of REACH, though a consensus may never be reached. Also, in order to facilitate the implementation of Weight of Evidence approaches and in silico modelling proposed by REACH, there is a higher appeal of numerical quality values than nominal (categorical) ones, where the proposed fuzzy expert system could help. Most importantly, the deriving processes of quality values generated in this way are fully transparent, and thus comprehensible, for final users, which is another vital point for policy making specified in REACH. Case studies have been conducted and this report not only shows the promise of the approach, but also demonstrates the difficulties of the approach and thus indicates areas for future development.