Ontology design is still more of an art than a science. A methodology, Methontology, does exist, but it does not cover all aspects of ontology development. Likewise, there are tools, such as Protégé and the NeOn toolkit, that make several steps in the whole procedure easier. But, with the plethora of resources around, where should one start developing one’s own domain ontology, what resources are available for reuse to speed up its development, for which purposes can the ontology be developed?
The novice ontology engineer would have to go through much of the extant literature, read case studies and draw their own conclusions on how to go about developing the ontology and/or also attend ontology engineering courses or summer schools, which is a rather high start-up cost.
To ameliorate this, but also to save myself from repeating such information informally, I gave it a try to condense that information in, effectively, 4 Springer-size pages [pdf] (plus 1 page intro and 1 page references) . The paper contains a grouping of input parameters that determine effectiveness of ontology development and use, which are categorised along four dimensions: purpose, ontology reuse, ways of ontology learning, and the language and reasoning services.
The aim was to be brief, so while the list of parameters is long, the list of references is comparatively short—but the references are kept diverse and they do contain references to different paradigms around instead of just one. (A version with lots of references is in the making.)
The paper has several examples taken from the agriculture domain by having build upon experiences gained in previous and current projects and related literature. It is noteworthy, however, that development of agri-ontologies is in its infancy. Then, for a relatively seasoned ontology engineer, most, if not all, parameters may be known to a greater or lesser extent already, but from the intended audience perspective, the paper was deemed to be a timely, much needed, and useful overview. My impression is that those reviewers’ comments say more about the knowledge transfer—well, the lack thereof—from one discipline to another than about the modellers and domain experts.
For those of you who are interested in agri-ontologies and would like to know more about the latest developments in that area, there is the (third) special track on agriculture, food and the environment during MTSR’09 in Milan 1-2 October.
 Keet, C.M. Ontology design parameters for aligning agri-informatics with the Semantic Web. 3rd International Conference on Metadata and Semantics (MTSR’09) — Special Track on Agriculture, Food & Environment, Oct 1-2 2009 Milan, Italy. Springer CCIS. to appear.