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Re: [ontolog-forum] A "common basis"

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: <matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 3 May 2007 17:20:58 +0100
Message-id: <808637A57BC3454FA660801A3995FA8F04EC0876@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Colleagues,    (01)

Well, since this (data integration) is what keeps me in the style 
to which I have become accustomed, I think I will chime in here.    (02)

> On May 2, 2007, at 4:08 PM, Adam Pease wrote:
> > ...
> > Rather than just imagining some fatal flaw exists, I think it's
> > incumbent on those who claim a common upper ontology is 
> impossible to
> > give at least one example, as a logical proof, of such a flaw.
> I agree with that, Adam.  My own expression of skepticism in an  
> earlier post was not rooted in the idea that there is a fatal 
> flaw in  
> the idea of a reasonably comprehensive upper ontology.  To the  
> contrary, I don't see any reason at all why there couldn't be one;  
> indeed it seems clear that there already are several candidates.      (03)

MW: Quite. If there were only one possible upper ontology life
would be a lot easier, we could set about finding it together, like
the North Pole. Unfortunately(?) there are as many as people
have the energy to create.    (04)

> I am simply skeptical of two things:  (1) Whether there is any 
> coherent  
> sense in which such an on ontology could ever function as any 
> sort of  
> "medium" for supporting general interoperability (which is what the  
> person from NASA seemed to be advocating) and     (05)

MW: Well an upper ontology alone is never going to be enough of 
course (but you weren't suggesting it was were you?) But ontologies
that are data models like ISO 15926-2 have been used to integrate
data from different systems in the same or different domains delivering
significant business benefits (millions of USD).    (06)

> (2) even if the answer  
> to (1) is "yes", I am skeptical of whether such an approach would  
> have any advantage over a straightforward "federated" approach on  
> which distinct ontologies are integrated in a more piecemeal 
> fashion;  
> I am, that is, skeptical of the extent to which an upper ontology is  
> needed to *support* interoperability.    (07)

MW: I would agree that it is not necessary to support interoperability,
but it does make it more efficient - much more efficient. The problem is
that because there are (inevitably) many upper ontologies, the benefits
of using one are only gained when the use of a particular one is 
imposed. This implies having a governance process to ensure conformance.
In practice this is difficult enough to achieve within a single
organization of any size. However, the principle here is that trying
to achieve the use of a single upper ontology where there is not the
governance to make it stick, or a clear economic case for agreement 
is simply a waste of time.    (08)

MW: This is the route the Process Industries are taking with ISO 15926.
Agreeing an ontology (upper and domain ontologies as a data model and 
Reference Data Library) with a focus on use for the exchange of 
engineering design data. There is sufficient benefit in this to overcome 
the natural preference of different organisations to do it their own way.
Indeed, at a recent conference, all the major vendors of Computer Aided
Design (CAD) software for the Process Industries where claiming compliance 
to ISO 15926.    (09)

Regards    (010)

Matthew West
Reference Data Architecture and Standards Manager
Shell International Petroleum Company Limited
Registered in England and Wales
Registered number: 621148
Registered office: Shell Centre, London SE1 7NA, United Kingdom    (011)

Tel: +44 20 7934 4490 Mobile: +44 7796 336538
Email: matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx
http://www.matthew-west.org.uk/    (012)

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