The recent post "Become the OntologySME" and the story mentioned therein was interesting, and touches on a question I've had for a while.
If anyone can give their thoughts, thank you.
Q1: Are there any sources that discuss the role of SMEs in ontology development?
I have encountered a few of these. I cannot publish any of them here without permission though. Generally, the need is for experience over qualifications as I am not aware of any set of formal qualifications. There are various courses in Ontology available at numerous institutions however no one of them seems to be authoritative.
Most of the statements I have seen seem to indicate “XX years of experience in domain ontology work” or some other close terms.
Q2: If a domain ontology, say of some medical of biological subject, does not have one or more practicing SMEs, do you consider that to be a problem?
DN: Absolutely. I did some recent work at the US DOE and the Ontology aspects were very important. I would aver that without domain knowledge, it will most likely be incomplete or at worst, a failure due to omissions, wrongly typed terms and errors. Abolutely essential.
Q3: To what degree do you believe non-SME ontology developers negatively have or do affect the representations of the domain, either via (a) (un)intentionally trying to represent domain content/entities/phenomena using their own metaphysical world view or that of a particular stripe in philosophy despite it clashing with domain science, or (b) limited understanding of the domain affecting the faithfullness/accuracy of the representation and models?
DN: I usually use a test on whether someone can determine the differences between abstract and concrete as a rough estimate of their modelling prowess. If someone cannot build an abstract metamodel, I consider ay ontology work they do as likely dangerous if represented as ontology work. I have seen many “models” and “metamodels” that are almost complete garbage. The issue is that the general populace does not often have the skills required to ascertain the degree of errors in such models.
I would mention the OSI stack as an example. The OSI stack is an abstract model however I have been in more than one presentation where someone had two instances of the OSI model apparently connecting to and communicating with one another. When I was part of the team that built the OASIS Reference model for SOA, we had numerous “contributions” that were not abstract. For people able to take criticism, it is fairly easy to help them understand how their models needed to be changed to better represent the concepts. Unfortunately, my observation is that most people are not that accepting of criticism of their work, mores when it has been submitted publicly to a team or working group.
The people who run around and deliver such models telling everyone they are doing ontology work is damaging to the real craft. Once more, there are no real clearly authoritative defences or badges a person can earn that are accepted across the entire industry as proof of mastery of modelling as a discipline. This causes damage.
More damage is also done by people who claim they are doing the work when they are in fact not doing it properly.
To fix this, an industry-wide accepted certification and accompanying tests in the various disciplines required to do proper modelling and domain ontology modelling would be helpful in instilling confidence in the minds of those who need to know a person does possess the proper skills.
Perhaps that is something this body could one day provide to the industry? I would certainly back it.
Duane Nickull – CTO
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