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Re: [ontolog-forum] Data Models v. Ontologies (again)

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 21 May 2008 14:28:26 -0400
Message-id: <483469CA.8090000@xxxxxxxx>
John F. Sowa wrote:
> Sean, Ed, Anders, Adrian, and Sharma,
> I sympathize with your comments, but I'd like to make some points
> that may clarify some of the issues:
>   1. Ontology is a theoretical field (essentially a branch of
>      philosophy), and data modeling is an engineering field.    (01)

I am going to put on my Pat Hayes mask and say that philosophical 
ontology is NOT what we are talking about here.  We are talking about 
knowledge engineering, and in that field, "ontology" is a term for a 
model of knowledge.    (02)

Knowledge engineering is an engineering field.  Thinking of it as 
fundamentally either philosophical or scientific in nature makes it more 
difficult for the would-be practitioner to do it well.    (03)

>   2. Engineering fields frequently apply theories from more than
>      one branch of science.
>   3. For data modeling, the theories include ontology, logic,
>      and a variety of theories developed in computer science
>      and information technology.    (04)

I fully agree.  And for knowledge engineering, which is also an 
engineering field, these same source disciplines also apply.    (05)

> EB> First rule: "ontology" is IN; "data model" is OUT.
> I agree, but as one of the early adopters of the term 'ontology'
> (in my book that appeared in August 1983), I almost wish that I
> hadn't used the term.  I tend to cringe at the way people use
> it nowadays.    (06)

You and me both.  But this falls into the category of "grant me the 
patience to accept the things I cannot change."    (07)

> SB> Characteristics which may be important to a data modeler,
>  > such as the time an entity was added to the system, would not
>  > be significant to the ontologist, since the time the entity is
>  > added in no way helps identify what sort of thing the entity
>  > is (where in the lattice it sits).
> That distinction is typical of an engineering discipline.
> An engineer must consider many requirements of an application
> that are outside the scope of various theories that are being
> applied.  Since an engineer will often use more than one theory
> in the design of any system, it will rarely happen that every
> aspect needed for the application is covered by every theory
> that is applied.
> Sometimes an engineer's work will contribute to the scientific
> field on which it is based.  But it is always important to
> distinguish the goals of the scientists (or ontologists) from
> the goals of the engineers who apply their theories:
>   - Science is the pursuit of knowledge, independent of any
>     particular application of that knowledge.
>   - Engineering is the application of science for the purpose
>     of solving some problem within the limits of available
>     resources and deadlines.    (08)

Exactly.  And among those applications is the representation of 
scientific knowledge in a form suitable for automated reasoning.  That 
is what ontology engineers do, and it is not itself science.  Please 
don't confuse them.  I don't know what an ontologist is, but I think of 
it as some form of omphaloskepsis.  I do know what knowledge engineers do.    (09)

-Ed    (010)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (011)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (012)

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