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[ontology-summit] Descriptive vs. Prescriptive

To: Ontology Summit 2007 Forum <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Charles D Turnitsa <CTurnits@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 10:47:26 -0400
Message-id: <OF42072488.A09B7908-ON852572C7.00513F2C-852572C7.00513F3C@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
There seems to be a bit of confusion as to this dimension here at the summit.  As the originator of this idea in the email discussion group, here is a view as to how it can be interpreted.

The difference between Descriptive and Prescriptive is (as some have pointed out) related to Intended Use and Design Methodology, but in both cases is not the same thing.  The difference can be seen in a simple way, and it has to do with how and why the Ontological Representation being evaluated was crafted.

If the basis for the decisions of the Ontology were based on a number of existing documents and systems, and the implied ontology within those artifacts, then it is a Descriptive Ontology.  It takes, as the source of its epistemological validity, the body of artifacts it is based on.

If the basis for the decisions of the Ontology is instead predicated on the best possible current understanding of the referent material that the Ontology deals with, then it is Prescriptive in nature.  Note that a Prescriptive ontology would be formed with a priori knowledge (as much as possible) of the body of referents, and not based on whatever abstraction of that knowledge is captured in existing systems, models, etc.  In this case, the source for epistemological validity is the body of referents.

I hope this helps.  If not, I am ready to be given a cigarette and blindfold...


Charles Turnitsa
Project Scientist
Virginia Modeling, Analysis & Simulation Center
Old Dominion University Research Foundation
(757) 638-6315 (voice)

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