INTEROP - Spatial Ontology Community of Practice: an Interdisciplinary Network to Support Geospatial Data Sharing, Integration and Interoperability    (2JNX)

awarded in late 2010    (382B)

Investigators:    (2JWC)

Geospatial data, which describe location information for geographic features, are pervasive across many disciplines and fundamental for diverse applications, such as economic development, natural resources, environmental protection, and emergency response. But, re-using geospatial data across distributed, heterogeneous information sources remains difficult.    (2JO2)

Although progress has been made by initiatives such as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and Geospatial One-Stop to distribute data, it is now necessary to address issues of standards harmonization, effective coordination of schemata, and the lack of agreement on the meanings of relevant concepts due to the use of different community views and spatial data models. Application focused vocabularies remain a rigid and closed set of descriptors, which even if very rich, cannot easily be enhanced to support interoperability. These issues have been widely recognized as stumbling blocks to collaboration needed by research communities. As a solution, well designed, formal ontologies, relying on agreements between communities on unambiguous representation of concepts and relationships for a given problem area, can be used as an analytic tool to bridge community gaps.    (381X)

A small example of the concepts formalized in the NASA's "light ontology" SWEET (Semantic Web for Earth and Environment Terminology) is shown below. Unfortunately, many communities lack the expertise to develop, test, maintain, and disseminate even such simple taxonomically organized ontologies on their own, and, further, common and harmonized ontologies require agreement across a range of communities.    (2JNZ)    (2K80)

In cooperation with SOCoP and with support from the ontology community this work proposes to create a network of interested geospatial researchers, practitioners, and developers for the purpose of creating, experimenting with, and using ontologies in the geospatial domain. We will conduct in-person workshops and have an on-line collaborative environment. Among other things this will address the question “what is a geospatial ontology?”. See SOCoP/GeospatialOntologies drafted by Gary Berg-Cross. The boarder ontology community has contributed introductory material on ontology and sememantics. This includes John Sowa's Integrating Semantic Systems (see and "Getting Started with Semantics in the Enterprise" by Bradley Shoebottom viewable at    (2QWI)


This research will also involve creating a collaborative Network for geospatial/spatial ontologies to provide interoperability for geospatial data. Geospatial data cross a broad range of disciplines and need to be re-purposed for different uses. Mechanisms for the Network include a portal with collaboration tools to create, critique, and align ontologies; a repository for geospatial ontologies on the portal; educational workshops for a broad geospatial community to solicit input on use cases; smaller working group sessions on one or two chosen domains to collaborate on developing ontologies that work across use cases, and interactions with standards groups for formal publishing of ontologies. Participation will be promoted through contacts of the PIs. Ontology harmonization techniques will be developed to aid in processing and resolving contributions from developers, reviewers, and editors.    (2JO3)

The goal of the project's research and development is to create a model that incorporate semantics and ontology capabilities as part of a robust next phase of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.    (2JO1)    (2K81)