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Re: [ontolog-forum] OWL and lack of identifiers

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: <matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 08:43:19 +0100
Message-id: <808637A57BC3454FA660801A3995FA8F04EC0110@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Bill, Ken, and Peter,
I don't think this is an issue that is easily banished.
We struggled with this issue in developing ISO 15926 and came up with two options:
1. Have 2 identifiers for each "record". The first for what the record represents, the second for the record itself. You use the identifier for the object of interest.
2. Make it part of the semantics of the relation whether the relationship was between the data objects or what the data objects represented.
I thought that 1. was cleaner, but as it turned out it was not an option in the EXPRESS environment. This also seems to be the case for Bill's social security system, so the semantics should make it clear that it is the person the social security number refers to was born on the day the date of birth field refers to.


Matthew West
Reference Data Architecture and Standards Manager
Shell International Petroleum Company Limited
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Email: matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx

-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]On Behalf Of Bill Andersen
Sent: 12 April 2007 22:54
To: [ontolog-forum] [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] OWL and lack of identifiers


I don't much like the sound of this.  I thought ontologies were supposed to be explicit (albeit partial) accounts of the meaning of terms.  Traditional DBs have lots of "features" like social security numbers having birthdates -- which was locally ok since typically they were built for a limited application purpose and everyone using the system drank from the same pot of kool-aid.  Ontologies are supposed to put an end to such things, not perpetuate them...  


On Apr 12, 2007, at 16:29 , Ken Laskey wrote:


I often questioned when talking about a URI that dereferenced to a Web page whether I was talking about
- the Web page (say, a collection of information on King Arthur),
- the subject of the Web page (i.e. King Arthur), or
- some particular piece of information (say, King Arthur had a sword named Excalibur)

A recent answer I got that made sense was that the domain and range of the properties used to describe the URI (i.e. the arcs in an RDF graph) provide the context to disambiguate the meaning.  While not considering that in detail, I think it works.

Does this start to address your problem?


On Apr 12, 2007, at 3:44 PM, Peter F Brown wrote:


Thanks for a fascinating overview. My comment on the webmeeting chat line was slightly facetious when I stated that: “If OWL added identifiers as you suggest, that would break Tim Berner-Lee's underlying model for Web architecture”, but I think that you hit the heart of one of the problems that I have with OWL and with the W3C axioms about information modelling: that is the failure to distinguish between:

-          a URL as an identifier of something, (in the terms you refer to in slide 34 [1]); and

-          a URL that is the “something” (a resource)

and the fact that you can’t actually make any assertion about a URL being considered as an identifier.

Although not designed as a standard for inferences and reasoning, the ISO Topic Maps standard does have an explicit mechanism for capturing and managing identity (using the concept of published subject identifiers), in the ways you describe are needed. I’m not sure what other specs out there do likewise, except for the humble URN…

In either case, we still have the problem of what you called “relative uniqueness” rather than, presumably, absolute uniqueness.

I look forward to seeing you at the Ontology Summit next week!



[1] http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/work/DatabaseAndOntology/2007-04-12_EdwardBarkmeyer/InfoModels-Ontologies--EdBarkmeyer_20070412.ppt


Peter F Brown

Founder, Pensive.eu

Chair, CEN eGovernment Focus Group

Co-Editor, OASIS SOA Reference Model

Lecturer at XML Summer School



+43 676 610 0250





Ken Laskey
MITRE Corporation, M/S H305     phone:  703-983-7934
7515 Colshire Drive                        fax:        703-983-1379
McLean VA 22102-7508


Bill Andersen (andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx)

Chief Scientist

Ontology Works, Inc. (www.ontologyworks.com)

3600 O'Donnell Street, Suite 600

Baltimore, MD 21224

Office: 410-675-1201

Cell: 443-858-6444

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