Ontologies and conceptual modelling workshop in Pretoria

A first attempt was made in South Africa to get researchers and students together who are interested in, and work on, ontologies, conceptual data modelling, and the interaction between the two, shaped in the form of an interactive Workshop on Ontologies and Conceptual Modelling on 15-16 Nov 2012 in Tshwane/Pretoria (part of the Forum on AI Research (FAIR’12) activities). The participants came from, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of South Africa, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, and different research units of CSIR-Meraka (where the workshop was organized and held), and the remainder of the post contains a brief summary of the ongoing and recently competed research that was presented at the workshop.

The focus on the first day of the workshop was principally on the modeling itself, modeling features, and some prospects for reasoning with that represented information and knowledge. I had the honour to start the sessions with the talk of the paper that recently won the best paper award at EKAW’12 on “Detecting and Revising Flaws in OWL Object Property Expressions” [1], which was followed by Zubeida Khan’s talk of our paper at EKAW’12 about ONSET: Automated Foundational Ontology Selection and Explanation [2] that was extended with a brief overview of her MSc thesis on an open ontology repository for foundational ontologies that is near completion. Tahir Khan, who is a visiting PhD student (at UKZN) from Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento, gave the third talk within the scope of ontology engineering research. The main part of Tahir’s presentation consisted of an overview of his template-based approach for ontology construction that aims to involve the domain experts in the modeling process of domain ontology development in a more effective way [3]. This was rounded off with a brief overview of one component of this approach, which has to do with being able to select the right DOLCE category when one adds a new class to the ontology and integrating OntoPartS for selecting the appropriate part-whole relation [4] into the template-based approach and its implementation in the MoKi ontology development environment.

There were three talks about representation of and reasoning over defeasible knowledge. Informally, defeasible information representation concerns the ability to represent (and, later, reason over) ‘typical’ or ‘usual’ cases that do have exceptions; e.g., that a human heart is typically positioned left, but in people with sinus inversus, it is positioned on the right-hand side in the chest, and policy rules, such as that, normally, users have access to, say, documents of type x, but black-listed users should be denied access. Giovanni Casini presented recent results on extending the ORM2 conceptual data modeling language with the ability to represent such defeasible information [5], which will be presented also at the Australasian Ontology Workshop in early December. Tommie Meyer focused on the reasoning about it in a Description Logics context ([6] is somewhat related to the talk), whereas Ivan Varzinczak looked at the propositional case with defeasible modalities [7], which will be presented at the TARK’13 conference.

Arina Britz and I also presented fresh-fresh in-submission stage results. Arina gave a presentation about semantic similarities and ‘forgetting’ in propositional logical theories (joint work with Ivan Varzinczak), and I presented a unifying metamodel for UML class diagrams v2.4.1, EER, and ORM2 (joint work with Pablo Fillottrani).

Deshen Moodley gave an overview of the HeAL lab at UKZN and outlined some results from his students Ryan Chrichton (MSc) and Ntsako Maphophe (BSc(honours)). Ryan designed an architecture for software interoperability of health information systems in low-resource settings [8]. Ntsako has developed a web-based ontology development and browsing tool for lightweight ontologies stored in a relational database that was tailored to the use case of a lightweight ontology of software artifacts. Ken Halland presented and discussed his experiences with teaching a distance-learning-based honours-level ontology engineering module at UNISA.

Overall, it was a stimulating and interactive workshop that hopefully can, and will, be repeated next year with an even broader participation than this year’s 16 participants.


[1] C. Maria Keet. Detecting and Revising Flaws in OWL Object Property Expressions. Proc. of EKAW’12. Springer LNAI vol 7603, pp2 52-266.

[2] Zubeida Khan and C. Maria Keet. ONSET: Automated Foundational Ontology Selection and Explanation. Proc. of EKAW’12. Springer LNAI vol 7603, pp 237-251.

[3] Tahir Khan. Involving domain experts in ontology construction: a template-based approach. Proc. of ESWC’12 PhD Symposium. 28 May 2012, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Springer, LNCS 7295, 864-869.

[4] C. Maria Keet, Francis Fernandez-Reyes, and Annette Morales-Gonzalez. Representing mereotopological relations in OWL ontologies with OntoPartS. In: Proc. of ESWC’12, 29-31 May 2012, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Springer, LNCS 7295, 240-254.

[5] Giovanni Casini and Alessandro Mosca. Defeasible reasoning for ORM. In: Proc. of AOW’12. Dec 4, Sydney, Australia

[6] Moodley, K., Meyer, T., Varzinczak, I. A Defeasible Reasoning Approach for Description Logic Ontologies. Proc. of SAICSIT’12. Pretoria.

[7] Arina Britz and Ivan Varzinczak. Defeasible modalities. Proc. of TARK’13, Chennai, India.

[8] Ryan Crichton, Deshendran Moodley, Anban Pillay, Richard Gakuba and Christopher J Seebregts. An Interoperability Architecture for the Health Information Exchange in Rwanda. In Foundations of Health Information Engineering and Systems. 2012.


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