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Re: [ontolog-forum] Where does a taxonomy fit into a conceptual data mod

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: ewallace@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 16:19:17 -0500 (EST)
Message-id: <200603032119.QAA16527@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

Kathleen A Ellis wrote:    (01)

>This week, a member of our TaxCop (Taxonomy Community of Practice) group
>posted this question.
>    "I am working on developing an enterprise wide conceptual data model. I
>   wanted to know how developing a taxonomy is useful for the data model.?
>My background is microbiology and library science. I have only a vague idea
>about what an "enterprise wide conceptional model" is.     (02)

This email raises a few issues in terminology that I think should be clarified.    (03)

First: For me "an enterprise wide conceptual data model" is not the same
as an "enterprise wide conceptional model".  I would expect an enterprise
wide conceptual data model to be the initial form of a data model defining a
schema intended to support the business systems in an enterprise.  An
enterprise wide data model is the sort of thing that is used to describe
a common data repository at the core of Enterprise Resource Management (ERP)
and similar systems.  The qualifier: "conceptual" in the original question 
refers to the fact that the data model is built around the concepts important 
for business rather than the characteristics that are important to the 
implementation of a database.  Typically conceptual models are then 
transformed into the a schema specifically tailored to a particular data base 
management system used.    (04)

Second: a taxonomy is a hierarchical decomposition of categories where 
subcategories are considered disjoint.  A taxonomy is a conceptual model, but 
a very constrained one.  The expression "when all you have is a hammer, 
everything looks like a nail," is apt for taxonomy "modeling".  The result is 
an awkward conceptualization that may include non-subsumption hierarchical 
elements like part-of mixed in indescriminately.  Standard taxonomies that
are used for categorizing things in certain domains are useful (both library
and biology are such domains).  But there are well known information and 
object modeling languages that are much more expressive than taxonomies, so 
I wouldn't normally expect taxonomies to shape conceptual information models 
(although such models will certainly contain class and type hierarchies).    (05)

BTW - Kathleen's Finance example looks like a well formed taxonomy to me.    (06)

* None of the above should be considered advice.  I am not an enterprise
architecture consultant and don't play one on TV or in local plays ;). *    (07)

Evan K. Wallace
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
NIST    (08)

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