Delivering Behaviour Change Interventions: Development of a Mode of Delivery Ontology

Marta M Marques*, Rachel N Carey*, Emma Norris, Fiona Evans, Ailbhe N. Finnerty, Janna Hastings, Ella Jenkins, Marie Johnston, Robert West, Susan Michie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Delivering Behaviour Change Interventions: Development of a Mode of Delivery Ontology [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]

Background: Investigating and improving the effects of behaviour change interventions requires detailed and consistent specification of all aspects of interventions. An important feature of interventions is the way in which these are delivered, i.e. their mode of delivery. This paper describes an ontology for specifying the mode of delivery of interventions, which forms part of the Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology, currently being developed in the Wellcome Trust funded Human Behaviour-Change Project.

Methods: The Mode of Delivery Ontology was developed in an iterative process of annotating behaviour change interventions evaluation reports, and consulting with expert stakeholders. It consisted of seven steps: 1) annotation of 110 intervention reports to develop a preliminary classification of modes of delivery; 2) open review from international experts (n=25); 3) second round of annotations with 55 reports to test inter-rater reliability and identify limitations; 4) second round of expert review feedback (n=16); 5) final round of testing of the refined ontology by two annotators familiar and two annotators unfamiliar with the ontology; 6) specification of ontological relationships between entities; and 7) transformation into a machine-readable format using the Web Ontology Language (OWL) and publishing online.

Results: The resulting ontology is a four-level hierarchical structure comprising 65 unique modes of delivery, organised by 15 upper-level classes: Informational, Environmental change, Somatic, Somatic alteration, Individual-based/ Pair-based /Group-based, Uni-directional/Interactional, Synchronous/ Asynchronous, Push/ Pull, Gamification, Arts feature. Relationships between entities consist of is_a. Inter-rater reliability of the Mode of Delivery Ontology for annotating intervention evaluation reports was a=0.80 (very good) for those familiar with the ontology and a= 0.58 (acceptable) for those unfamiliar with it.

Conclusion: The ontology can be used for both annotating and writing behaviour change intervention evaluation reports in a consistent and coherent manner, thereby improving evidence comparison, synthesis, replication, and implementation of effective interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalWellcome open research
Early online date10 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

We would like to express our gratitude to the experts who contributed to the open peer-review stages of this study and to Kirsty Atha for the support in annotating papers.
Grant information: This work is supported by Wellcome through a collaborative award to The Human Behaviour-Change Project [201524]. MMM is funded by a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie fellowship [EU H2020 EDGE program grant agreement No. 713567].


  • Behaviour
  • Delivery
  • Evidence synthesis
  • Expert feedback
  • Intervention
  • Ontology
  • Reporting


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