It is well-known that there are theoretical and practical reasons why using a foundational ontology—such as DOLCE, BFO, GFO, SUMO—improve the quality and interoperability of the domain ontology, which recently also has been shown experimentally. However, it is also known that when one desires to use one, it is difficult to choose which one should be used, and why. Reading all the documentation, becoming familiar with the philosophical underpinnings, looking up what other ontology developers did in similar situation and so on, is a time-consuming task. This bottleneck has now been solved with ONSET.
ONSET, the foundational ONtology SElection Tool, does the hard work for you (download jar file). You answer one or more questions, and it will compute a suggestion based on the answers and your priorities, and it explains why the particular foundational ontology was selected. As usability is important, several “explain” buttons were added, in particular in the “ontology commitments” category. To increase a user’s confidence, ONSET not only simply selects a foundational ontology for you, but also explains why by relating it back to the answers the user chose, and it displays all (if any) request that was not met by the selected ontology. The rather basic main page of ONSET contains an example and links to the various versions of the three ontologies.
Zubeida Khan, a recently graduated (cum laude) BSc honours student I supervised, did most of the work to realise ONSET. She went painstakingly through some 50 publications to extract the features of the ontologies, by considering the ‘selling points’ from the side of the foundational ontology developers, assessing what motivates domain ontology developers of ongoing and completed ontology development projects to choose one over the other, and examined independent characteristics (such as the language in which it is available, modularity). A list was compiled consisting of foundational ontology parameters, and the values were filled in for each ontology (in the current version, they are BFO, DOLCE, and GFO). These values were subsequently verified by the respective foundational ontology developers. Zubeida then implemented it in ONSET (download jar file), following good software design practices and taking into account extensibility of the tool.
While ONSET makes it a lot easier for a domain ontology developer to select a foundational ontology, from the Ontology (philosophy) side of things, it, perhaps, raises more questions than it answers (which deserve attention, but not in this blog post).
Feedback is welcome!