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Re: [ontolog-forum] standard ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Azamat" <abdoul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2009 20:03:29 +0200
Message-id: <005d01c99060$df864a70$a104810a@homepc>
On Monday, February 16, 2009 6:00 PM, Patrick wrote:
The project proposal I have been discussing in bits and pieces on this forum is described in a bit more detail below.  Until we can identify a possible source of funding, I imagine that this will merely be the subject of endless debate.  Our experience of the past fifteen years with upper ontologies is that nothing serious happens without a significant commitment of money.
The proposal sounds sensible in many respects.
But the real fact is that the project of Standard Ontology is not only a historically unique scientific and engineering enterprise, but also too extensive, both in its scale of knowledge, funding stakeholders and research participants. Thus it will be expensive, the figures mentioned are too small, as i said the smaller ontology groups, usually without any delivery a promised product, are getting much more, about $20m.
As the international stakeholders can go European Research Council, NSF, UN (Classification Sections). 
Given that the public ontology awareness is still low, it is reasonable to use more telling words (as "marketing" adjustments). Instead of Standard Ontolology or Foundation Ontology, something like:
Human Knowledge Standards;
Global Knowledge Organization System;
Universal Knowledge Base;
Entity Classification Standards;
RDFreal (Reality Description Framework), etc.
Azamat Abdoullaev
PS: In fact, the most fundamental things have been achieved  without a significant commitment of money; take the most extensive knowledge project, Wikipedia, bare enthusiasm to kick off and 6m operating costs yearly.




Proposal for a Collaborative Effort to Create a Common Foundation Ontology and a Community of Users


The goal is to create an open-source common Foundation Ontology (FO) that is used by some substantial community of users who will test it in practical applications and share their lessons and results.  Such a common FO should have eventually enough users to motivate third-party developers to create utilities to make it easier to use, and applications that demonstrate its utility.   To accomplish this, it is proposed that a collaborative project be organized with about 100 funded participants.



Based on the experience of the past 15 years of discussion and effort to develop a common foundation ontology (often referred to as a common ?upper ontology?), the problems encountered appear to be:

(1) no one view of the foundation ontology elements is satisfactory to a majority of ontology developers

(2) the FOs thus far developed have each reflected only one viewpoint on ontology structure, out of many possible views

(3) no impressive **publicly observable** practical applications have been developed to provide motivation to learn any of the existing foundation ontologies

(4) learning how to use existing foundation ontologies is time-consuming; in the absence of strong motivation (such as impressive applications), few are willing to undertake the effort

(5) developing impressive applications for an ontology (those that go beyond data in ? data out demonstrations) is very time-consuming ? even more so than developing the FO itself.  This is one reason why Cycorp has not fielded an impressive online demo of the use of their ontology.

(6) it is likely that impressive demonstration applications such as Natural Language understanding will require the coordinated collaborative efforts of many developers, but that has been inhibited by the absence of widespread agreement on a foundation ontology as the basis for such an effort, and by the current NL focus on corpus-based statistical methods.


The solution appears to be to create a common FO by the efforts of a large collaborative team that will also form a user community that can evolve the FO and learn from each other?s efforts.  Based on past experience, this is likely to require about 100 participants representing at least 50 separate teams of developers or users of ontologies.  The effort required to create such an ontology is considerable, and adequate funding (average ½ of full-time) for each participant will be required.  The project is likely to extend over three years, and funding for such a project is likely to require at least 10 million dollars per year (average 100K/yr per participant).


The success of such a project will depend on prior agreement concerning the goals, timetable, and process by which the project will be conducted.  The anticipate phasing is:

(1) preliminary on-line discussion, after some commitment of funding is obtained, so that participants can be solicited and identified, and can get acquainted with each others? views and goals for the project.  On this basis, they will make their decision whether or not to participate:  No funding will be required for this discussion, but the topic is not likely to be taken seriously unless some probable source of funding has been identified and has made a tentative commitment.

(2) an in-person meeting of a preliminary group of funded participants, for one or two weeks, to prepare a formal set of goals, timetable, and procedural rules.  At this point some potential participants may decide not to participate in the full project.  Travel funding will be needed for this meeting.


 If there are not at least 50 participants who agree to the conditions of funding (see below), the project will not be funded.  This is to guarantee that there is in fact a substantial community of users that result from the project.   Generating a community of users is one of the main goals of the project.


(3) The main project will consist of development of the FO containing representations of fundamental elements satisfactory to each of the participants, allowing alternatives, and providing translation  axioms or procedures.  In parallel, utilities to help make the FO easy to use, and applications to demonstrate its use will be developed.   It is anticipated that the third year of the project will be devoted mostly to testing the utilities and applications, with modifications of the FO made to supply any missing functionality.


The goals, timetable, and process will be finalized in a preliminary meeting of the participants, taking perhaps one or two weeks after preliminary online discussions have acquainted the participants with each others? views and individual goals for their participation.


An initial set of proposals for the goals and process might be the following.  The development consortium will decide which if any of these to adopt, and which to add.


(1) The distinctive and indispensable goal for the FO will be to serve as a means to *translate* among the local representations (terminology and format) of all of the participants, so that each individual can use his/her own preferred local representation and still interoperate accurately with the others.   A second important function of the FO is serve as the basic set of ontology elements with which the meanings of  domain ontology elements can be described (this function is served by existing FOs).   For both of these functions, the FO should have an adequate inventory of fundamental concept representations to both create new specialized ontology elements and to translate among the local representations of the participants.

(2) The ontology and any utilities develop by the project will be open-source and open to suggestions from any interested party.  A web site indicating the current state of development of the components of the project will be maintained so that suggestions can be received from any party with an interest in the effort.

(3) setting and adhering to a timetable for development will be essential.  For this reason it is not anticipated that consensus will be reached on most of the controversial issues, and when necessary disagreements will be resolved by a quick vote of the executive committee (which may be the whole set of participants, or a subset selected by the whole).   Those who are aware (based on prior discussion) that their own views will not prevail in such a vote may choose not to participate, or may drop out after participating for some time.

(4) the need for resolution of disagreements will be mitigated by allowing the inclusion of all desired ontology elements from any participant.  Those elements that are logically consistent (after translation by bridging axioms or translation  functions) can be included in the base FO, and those that are logically inconsistent will be included in one or more extensions.  The set of base FO and extensions may form a ?lattice of theories? or a simple hierarchy, as decided by the executive committee.   Importantly, *no* participant can veto the inclusion of an element from some other participant.  If it occurs that at least one of two or more logically inconsistent representations must be included in the base FO, a choice of  *which one* to include will have to be made by vote, to keep the base FO logically consistent.

(5) as a condition of funding, participants will agree to test the FO in at least one application, and report to the consortium regarding its performance and suitability in that application; if another ontology is also tested in that application, a comparison of the performance of the two ontologies will be reported, with an evaluation of the reason for the difference, and any improvements that may be needed for the common FO.  Participants that drop out after less than two years may not be held to this obligation.  Funded participants are allowed and encouraged to collaborate on developing applications in fulfillment of this condition.  There may also be non-funded participants,  who will not be under any obligation to report their use of the FO.  Whether non-funded participants will have any voting rights for resolving disagreements will be decided by the funded participants.

(6) together with the FO, it will be necessary to develop utilities to make the resulting product easier to use.  (a) One utility will be a program to extract from the base FO a subontology that contains only those elements required for a particular application.  For example, since the base FO will have alternative representations of some concepts, the extraction utility will usually extract only one view, to maximize computational efficiency.  The full set of alternate views in the FO will be required only to *translate* among the alternative views when information transfer is desired between systems linked to the FO.   By supporting extraction of subontologies from the FO, the problem of computational complexity will be minimized.

(b) another utility will consist of a set of translation utilities that can translate assertions from one alternative view (local representation) to another;

 (c) another utility will be a natural-language interface that can both search for concepts described using a controlled subset of English, and automatically translate concept specifications from English into the logical representation.  The controlled English vocabulary will be maintained as a component of the NL utility, and can be expanded as needed to make use of the FO easier by allowing more natural descriptions of the meanings of new elements.

(7)  At least two demonstration applications need to be developed along with the FO, to illustrate its use.  One of those applications should be a natural-language understanding program, which will expand on the NL interface utility developed, to include interpretation of text (by conversion to the logical specifications of the FO) in at least one specialized domain, and support question answering about any text interpreted.




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