are some thoughts on this topic. I’d like to add a concern about the
control/acceptance of ontology content by a broader group than philosophers or
scientists. I’m thinking about bureaucrats. I think that many ontologies (and
more broadly, concept systems including thesauri, taxonomies, etc.) have been
and will be developed for use within the mission areas of government agencies.
There can be a vetting process to “approve” a concept system/ontology for use
within a community of interest.
view of bureaucracies is that they are feudal, with fiefdoms and the like.
Ontology/concept system development is likely to occur at the sub-organization
level, rather than at an agency-wide level. In the area of the environment,
the Baron(ess) of Solid Waste will put his/her imprimatur on the Solid
Waste ontology. The Prince(ss) of Sewage will put his/her imprimatur on the
Sewage ontology. Mostly, this will not be done by fiat, but by the usual
tumult of consensus building within the communities of interest: the Solid
Waste and Sewage stakeholders. (The stakeholders may include persons who are
scientists and philosophers, and/or bureaucrats, issue activists, members of
the “regulated” community, etc.)
some point the stakeholders will declare the concept system/ontology to be
“good enough for government work” and the Baron(ess)/Prince(ss) will impress
his/her seal into the wax.
is some of what we need to record in an Open Ontology Repository. Who approves
the concept system/ontology for what community of interest and what purpose?
This, of course, leads to a lot of detail. There will be evolution of content
and evolution of levels of approval. There will be changes of Political
Administration, which may up the down. And there needs to be ways to integrate
the ontology fragments into larger bits for cross program (cross media—Solid
Waste, Sewage …) studies, policy, and action. This may involve additional
levels of vetting. The OOR should not only register and hold the concept
systems/ontologies, but also deal with the metadata describing
that lowered the level.
University of California,
Lawrence Berkeley National
1 Cyclotron Road, MS
[mailto:ontology-summit-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Pat
Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2008 9:57 AM
phismith@xxxxxxxxxxx; Ontology Summit 2008
[ontology-summit] [Quality] What means
At 9:03 AM -0400 3/20/08, <phismith@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On Thu Mar 20 2:34 , "John F. Sowa"
>For any product, including an ontology, the best
>the reviews and reports from users that are
recorded in the metadata.
>As the reviews accumulate, prospective
users can decide for themselves
>which ontologies are best suited for
I think democratic ranking (the wisdom of crowds)
is indeed valuable for
refrigerators and other similar products. Hence
the success of ranking systems on
eBay and amazon.com. But it is surely
of less importance in scientific contexts
-- we would not decide on which
interpretation of the equations of quantum
physics to accept by taking a
vote of users. Since the OBO Foundry ontologies are
built by scientists,
to support scientific research, it is not clear that they
are to be
treated as products.
This is where I part company with Barry, and indeed where I
believe that the very idea of controlling the contents of an OOR (noting that
the first O means 'open') needs to be examined very, very carefully. Of course
we would not argue that majority voting should be used to choose scientific
theories; but ontologies, even those used by scientists, are not themselves
scientific theories. The OBO Foundry is quite clear, in its own
documentation, that the basic ontological assumptions on which it is based are
ultimately philosophical decisions, not scientific ones. Such
assumptions most emphatically do not have the force of a scientific theory,
even when the ontologies constructed according to them are being used by
scientists. And any such implication of 'scientific' authority must be
examined especially carefully when the, er, foundry is controlled by the
philosophers themselves, and its gatekeepers are mandated to only allow
ontologies which conform to the somewhat arbitrary philosophical views of its
founders (for example, by requiring consistency with a single 'base'
ontology). I do not mean this to be a criticism of OBO itself, but I do claim
that OBO hardly qualifies as anything like an "open" ontology repository. In
the contrary, in fact: it is quite firmly closed to an entire approach to
ontology construction which, while successfully deployed elsewhere, happens to
not conform to the philosophical views that Barry has so nobly defended in so
While refrigerator manufacturers may allow
ranking to influence e.g. size and color, they would use other
e.g. in matters of thermodynamics.
Perhaps so: but we are here discussing matters of ontology,
and in the current state of the art, this may have more in common with
consumer product choice than with thermodynamics.
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