Reblogging 2013: Release of the (beta version of the) foundational ontology library ROMULUS

From the “10 years of keetblog – reblogging: 2013”: also not easy to choose regarding research. Here, then, the first results of Zubeida Khan’s MSc thesis on the foundational ontology library ROMULUS, being the first post of several papers on the theoretical and methodological aspects of it (KCAP’13 poster, KEOD’13 paper, MEDI’13 paper, book chapter, EKAW’14 paper) and her winning the award for best Masters from the CSIR. The journal paper on ROMULUS has just been published last week in the Journal on Data Semantics, in a special issue edited by Alfredo Cuzzocrea.

Release of the (beta version of the) foundational ontology library ROMULUS; April 4

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With the increase on ontology development and networked ontologies, both good ontology development and ontology matching for ontology linking and integration are becoming a more pressing issue. Many contributions have been proposed in these areas. One of the ideas to tackle both—supposedly in one fell swoop—is the use of a foundational ontology. A foundational ontology aims to (i) serve as a building block in ontology development by providing the developer with guidance how to model the entities in a domain, and  (ii) serve as a common top-level when integrating different domain ontologies, so that one can identify which entities are equivalent according to their classification in the foundational ontology. Over the years, several foundational ontologies have been developed, such as DOLCE, BFO, GFO, SUMO, and YAMATO, which have been used in domain ontology development. The problem that has arisen now, is how to link domain ontologies that are mapped to different foundational ontologies?

To be able to do this in a structured fashion, the foundational ontologies have to be matched somehow, and ideally have to have some software support for this. As early as 2003, this issue as foreseen already and the idea of a “WonderWeb Foundational Ontologies Library” (WFOL) proposed, so that—in the ideal case—different domain ontologies can to commit to different but systematically related (modules of) foundational ontologies [1]. However, the WFOL remained just an idea because it was not clear how to align those foundational ontologies and, at the time of writing, most foundational ontologies were still under active development, OWL was yet to be standardised, and there was scant stable software infrastructure. Within the Semantic Web setting, the solvability of the implementation issues is within reach yet not realised, but their alignment is still to be carried out systematically (beyond the few partial comparisons in the literature).

We’re trying to solve these theoretical and practical shortcomings through the creation of the first such online library of machine-processable, aligned and merged, foundational ontologies: the Repository of Ontologies for MULtiple USes ROMULUS. This version contains alignments, mappings, and merged ontologies for DOLCE, BFO, and GFO and some modularized versions thereof, as a start. It also has a section on logical inconsistencies; i.e., entities that were aligned manually and/or automatically and seemed to refer to the same thing—e.g., a mathematical set, a temporal region—actually turned out not to be (at least from a logical viewpoint) due to other ‘interfering’ axioms in the ontologies. What one should be doing with those, is a separate issue, but at least it is now clear where the matching problems really are down to the nitty-gritty entity-level.

We performed a small experiment on the evaluation of the mappings (thanks to participants from DERI, Net2 funds, and Aidan Hogan), and we would like to have more feedback on the alignments and mappings. It is one thing that we, or some alignment tool, aligned two entities, another that asserting an equivalence ends up logically consistent (hence mapped) or inconsistent, and yet another what you think of the alignments, especially the ontology engineers. You can participate in the evaluation: you will get a small set of a few alignments at a time, and then you decide whether you agree, partially agree, or disagree with it, are unsure about it, or skip it if you have no clue.

Finally, ROMULUS also has a range of other features, such as ontology selection, a high-level comparison, browsing the ontology through WebProtégé, a verbalization of the axioms, and metadata. It is the first online library of machine-processable, modularised, aligned, and merged foundational ontologies around. A poster/demo paper [2] was accepted at the Seventh International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP’13), and papers describing details are submitted and in the pipeline. In the meantime, if you have comments and/or suggestions, feel free to contact Zubeida or me.

References

[1] Masolo, C., Borgo, S., Gangemi, A., Guarino, N., Oltramari, A. Ontology library. WonderWeb Deliverable D18 (ver. 1.0, 31-12-2003). (2003) http://wonderweb.semanticweb.org.

[2] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. Toward semantic interoperability with aligned foundational ontologies in ROMULUS. Seventh International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP’13), ACM proceedings. 23-26 June 2013, Banff, Canada. (accepted as poster &demo with short paper)

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Zubeida Khan awarded with best Master’s thesis from CSIR

Zubeida Khan

I’m delighted to highlight here that Zubeida Khan (Dawood) was awarded with a “Best Master’s Thesis” from the CSIR (South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), where she was based when she did her Msc (cum laude) from UKZN, with a scholarship from the UKZN/CSIR-Meraka Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research, and yours truly as her supervisor.

Her thesis was about realising that library of foundational ontologies that had been proposed since late 2003 (in that WonderWeb deliverable D18). The concrete library is the online Repository for Ontologies of MULtiple Uses, ROMULUS, which was described briefly in the MEDI’13 paper [1], and she has a CSIR “technology demonstrator” about it (file) that received an overall panel evaluation of 90%. The theoretical foundations principally had to do with aligning and mapping the foundational ontologies that are included in the library, which are, to date, the OWL versions of DOLCE, GFO, and BFO, which has appeared in a KCAP’13 poster [2] and KEOD’13 full paper [3] and an extended version is due to appear in a best-papers-of-KEOD book [4]. In case you want to have more details: check Zubeida’s thesis, and I have a few blog posts that informally introduce the material: the first announcement of ROMULUS and the KCAP poster.

ROMULUS also contains an online and extended version of the foundational ontology recommender ONSET [5] (which was mostly her Bsc(hons) project, and whose integration into ROMULUS was part of her MSc), various documentation and browse and search features, and the new SUGOI tool for automated foundational ontology interchangeability [6].

Zubeida recently started her PhD at UCT with me as advisor, on ontology modularity, but in case you have feedback on the work, suggestions, or perhaps also new mappings to/from your favourite foundational ontology, feel free to contact her (or me)!

p.s.: Engineering news has an item about the awards, and so will CSIR have one.

p.p.s.: The minimum requirements for the award was:
-Published more than one paper in a peer reviewed publication
-Excellent behavioural attributes as attested by fellow team members such as work ethic and developing a good personal and professional relationships and an active contribution as a team member
-Above average performance score
-The studies must have been completed on a record time
-Excellent academic achievement

References

[1] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. The foundational ontology library ROMULUS. 3rd International Conference on Model & Data Engineering (MEDI’13). A. Cuzzocrea and S. Maabout (Eds.) September 25-27, 2013, Amantea, Calabria, Italy. Springer LNCS 8216, 200-211.

[2] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. Toward semantic interoperability with aligned foundational ontologies in ROMULUS. Seventh International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP’13), ACM proceedings. 23-26 June 2013, Banff, Canada. (poster/demo)

[3] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. Addressing issues in foundational ontology mediation. 5th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13), Vilamoura, Portugal, 19-22 September. Filipe, J. and Dietz, J. (Eds.), SCITEPRESS, pp5-16.

[4] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. Foundational ontology mediation in ROMULUS. invited extended version of the KEOD’13 paper, to be published in Springer CCIS.

[5] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. ONSET: Automated Foundational Ontology Selection and Explanation. 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’12), A. ten Teije et al. (Eds.). Oct 8-12, Galway, Ireland. Springer, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence LNAI 7603, 237-251.

[6] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. Feasibility of automated foundational ontology interchangeability. 19th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’14). K. Janowicz et al. (Eds.). 24-28 Nov, 2014, Linkoping, Sweden. Springer LNAI 8876, 225-237.

On ‘swapping’ your foundational ontology to increase interoperability

Over the past few years, I’ve been putting some effort into methods and tools and some data collection and analysis that would aid the use of foundational (top-level) ontologies in ontology engineering, such as DOLCE, GFO, and BFO, and some of its relations (mainly part-whole relations). Tools include the Ontology Selection and Explanation Tool to choose the most suitable foundational ontology [1] and OntoPartS [2] and OntoPartS-2 [3] for software-supported modeling of part-whole relations, and experimentally validating using a foundational ontology does make a difference [4]. The latest addition is SUGOI—Software Used to Gain Ontology Interchangeability, initiated by Zubeida Khan’s idea mentioned in her (cum laude) MSc thesis, which I supervised.

In the meantime, SUGOI has been implemented, and we have used it to answer principally two questions:

  1. Is it feasible to automatically generate links between ontology Oa and foundational ontology Oy, given Oa is linked to Ox? Say, I have an ontology linked to BFO, then can I swap BFO for DOLCE?
  2. If there are issues with the former, what is causing it? Or: in praxis, which entities of Ox are typically used for mappings with domain ontologies that may not be present, or present in an incompatible way, in Oy? Or: if not, then why not?

We tested this with 16 ontologies that are linked to a foundational ontology, and the results have just been accepted at the 19th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’14) [5].

Now, I already know that some of you will say (and, in fact, have said!), this is not feasible at all. Arguments on philosophical distinctions are there, yes, but not all of that appears in an OWL file and in the modeller’s view (see also an earlier post and references therein). Put differently: things are not that clear-cut and black-and-white as it initially may seem. We did observe a basic, or raw, ‘swapping success rate’ from 2% for the PID ontology from the GFO it was aligned to, to BFO, to up to a whopping 82% for the IDO ontology from BFO to either DOLCE or GFO (averaging at 36% for the real ontologies we tested with). Now, there.

So, what’s really happening? The success rate actually depends on several factors. Some entities in, say, BFO, while named differently, do have an equivalent in DOLCE or GFO, that may or may not be in a similar place in the ontology (if not, then you still end up with an inconsistency, which we removed as mapping), others do not. Those mappings have been investigated in detail [6], and, indeed, there aren’t many, but surely there are some. Several domain ontologies have alignments to only a few categories in a foundational ontology, others have more. If there aren’t many links, or predominantly to those for which there exists an equivalence assertion, then your ‘swapping success rate’ (called raw interchangeability in the paper) is high. Thus, it is not that it is not feasible at all.

sugoiscreen

The interface of the online desktop version of SUGOI.

Sounds obvious when one puts it like that. But what about my ontology, you may wonder. Use SUGOI to find out. The log file shows what’s been done in the process, and does compute those raw interchangeability metrics for you. SUGOI is ‘trivial’ to extend to include foundational ontologies other than DOLCE, BFO, and GFO—just the mapping files have to be added, but it doesn’t really change the algorithm.

We also looked at the data, especially for the ones with a low success rate, to figure out what causes it. It appeared that for those that use DOLCE, they probably do so because it has some nice knowledge about attributive properties that are not represented (BFO) or represented in an incompatible way (GFO) elsewhere. Likewise, those ontologies that were linked to BFO or GFO and for which there was a lower interchangeability to DOLCE, had quite a few links to aspects on roles, which aren’t in DOLCE proper, so that was causing a relatively lower success rate there (more details in the paper). We leave it up to the developers of the respective foundational ontologies to decide whether they wan to fill that ‘gap’ in their respective ontology.

We also checked SUGOI’s output against ontologies that had been aligned manually to more than one foundational ontology by the developers. We could find only two that were: BioTop and the Stuff Ontology. Mainly, we found the odd error in alignment and a few ones missed by manual alignment, but with n=2, those results are quite at the level of interesting anecdote (observing that the plural of anecdote is not data).

Whether you want to swap, or offer your ontology aligned to more than one foundational ontology to increase its interoperability with other ontologies, is, clearly, your choice to make. If you decide to do so, you could do that manually, but SUGOI automates that process for you as much as possible. Both Zubeida and I plan to be at EKAW’14, hopefully also with a demo, so that you not only can test it with your ontology (which you can do already on the SUGOI page already), but also gain some further detailed insights into the algorithm, the mapping files it used, and the consequences for your ontology.

References

[1] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. ONSET: Automated Foundational Ontology Selection and Explanation. 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’12), A. ten Teije et al. (Eds.). Oct 8-12, Galway, Ireland. Springer, LNAI 7603, 237-251.

[2] Keet, C.M., Fernandez-Reyes, F.C., Morales-Gonzalez, A. Representing mereotopological relations in OWL ontologies with OntoPartS. 9th Extended Semantic Web Conference (ESWC’12), Simperl et al. (eds.), 27-31 May 2012, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Springer, LNCS 7295, 240-254.

[3] Keet, C.M., Khan, M.T., Ghidini, C. Ontology Authoring with FORZA. 22nd ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM’13). ACM proceedings, pp569-578. Oct. 27 – Nov. 1, 2013, San Francisco, USA.

[4] Keet, C.M. The use of foundational ontologies in ontology development: an empirical assessment. 8th Extended Semantic Web Conference (ESWC’11), G. Antoniou et al (Eds.), Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 29 May-2 June, 2011. Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science LNCS 6643, 321-335.

[5] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. Feasibility of automated foundational ontology interchangeability. 19th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’14). 24-28 Nov, 2014, Linkoping, Sweden. Springer LNAI. (accepted)

[6] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. Addressing issues in foundational ontology mediation. 5th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13), Vilamoura, Portugal, 19-22 September. Filipe, J. and Dietz, J. (Eds.), SCITEPRESS, pp5-16.

Dabbling into evaluating reasoners with the DMOP ontology

The Data Mining OPtimization ontology (DMOP) is a highly axiomatised ontology that uses almost all features of OWL 2 DL and the domain entities are linked to DOLCE, using all four main ‘branches’ of DOLCE. Some details are described in last year’s OWLED’13 paper [1] and a blog post. We did observe ‘slow’ reasoner performance to classify the ontology, however, like, between 10 and 20 minutes, varying across versions and machines. The Ontology Reasoner Evaluation (ORE’14) workshop (part of the Vienna Summer of Logic) was a nice motivation to have a look at trying to figure out what’s going on, and some initial results are described briefly in the 6 pages-short paper [2], which is co-authored with Claudia d’Amato, Agnieszka Lawrynowicz, and Zubeida Khan.

Those results are definitely what can be called interesting, even though we’re still at the level of dabbling into it from a reasoner user-centric viewpoint, and notably, from a modeller-centric viewpoint. The latter is what made us pose questions like “what effect does using feature x have on performance of the reasoner?”. No one knew, except for the informal feedback back I received at DL 2010 on [3] that reasoning with data types slows down things, and likewise when the cardinalities are high. That’s not an issue with DMOP, though.

So, the first thing we did was determining a baseline on a good laptop—your average modeller doesn’t have a HPC cluster readily at hand—and in an Ontology Development Environment, where the reasoner is typically accessed from. Some 9 minutes to classify the ontology (machine specs and further details in the paper).

The second steps were the analysis of one specific modeling construct (inverses), and what effect DOLCE has on the overall performance.

The reason why we chose representation of inverses is because in OWL 2 DL (cf. OLW DL), one can use the objectInverseOf(OP) to use the inverse of an object property instead of extending the ontology’s vocabulary and using InverseObjectProperties(OPE1 OPE2) to relate the property and its inverse. For instance, to use the inverse the property addresses in an axiom, one used to have to introduce a new property, addressed by, declare it inverse to addresses, and then use that in the axiom, whereas in OWL 2 DL, one can use ObjectInverseOf(addresses) in the axiom (in Protégé, the syntax is inverse(addresses)). That slashed computing the class hierarchy by at least over a third (and about half for the baseline). Why? We don’t know. Other features used in DMOP, such as punning and property chains, were harder to remove and are heavily used, so we didn’t test those.

The other one, removing DOLCE, is a bit tricky. But to give away the end results upfront: that made it 10 times faster! The ‘tricky’ part has to do with the notion of ‘linking to a foundational ontology’ (deserving of its own blog post). For DMOP, we had not imported but merged, and we did not merge everything from DOLCE and its ExtendedDnS, but only what was deemed relevant, being, in numbers, 43 classes, 78 object properties and 593 axioms. To make matters worse—from an evaluation viewpoint, that is—is that we reused heavily three DOLCE object properties, so we kept those three DOLCE properties in the evaluation file, as we suspected it otherwise would have affected the deductions too much and interfere with the DOLCE-or-not question (one also could argue that those three properties can be considered an integral part of DMOP). So, it was not a simple case of ‘remove the import statement and run the reasoner again’, but a ‘remove almost everything with a DOLCE URI manually and then run the reasoner again’.

Because computation was so ‘slow’, we wondered whether maybe cleverly modularizing DMOP could be the way to go, in case someone wants to use only a part of DMOP. We got as far as trying to modularize the ontology, which already was not trivial because DMOP and DOCLE are both highly axiomatised and with few, if any, relatively isolated sections amenable to modularization. Moreover, what it did show, is that such automated modularization (when it was possible) only affects the number of class and number of axioms, not the properties and individuals. So, the generated modules are stuck with properties and individuals that are not used in, or not relevant for, that module. We did not fix that manually. Also, putting back together the modules did not return it to the original version we started out with, missing 225 axioms out of the 4584.

If this wasn’t enough already, the DMOP with/without DOLCE test was performed with several reasoners, out of curiosity, and they gave different output. FaCT++ and MORe had a “Reasoner Died” message. My ontology engineering students know that, according to DOLCE, death is an achievement, but I guess that its reasoners’ developers would deem otherwise. Pellet and TrOWL inferred inconsistent classes; HermiT did not. Pellet’s hiccup had to do with datatypes and should not have occurred (see paper for details). TrOWL fished out a modeling issue from all of those 4584 axioms (see p5 of the paper), of the flavour as described in [4] (thank you), but with the standard semantics of OWL—i.e., not caring at all about the real semantics of object property hierarchies—it should not have derived an inconsistent class.

Overall, it feels like having opened up a can of worms, which is exciting.

References

[1] Keet, C.M., Lawrynowicz, A., d’Amato, C., Hilario, M. Modeling issues and choices in the Data Mining OPtimisation Ontology. 8th Workshop on OWL: Experiences and Directions (OWLED’13), 26-27 May 2013, Montpellier, France. CEUR-WS vol 1080.

[2] Keet, C.M., d’Amato, C., Khan, Z.C., Lawrynowicz, A. Exploring Reasoning with the DMOP Ontology. 3rd Workshop on Ontology Reasoner Evaluation (ORE’14). July 13, 2014, Vienna, Austria. CEUR-WS vol (accepted).

[3] Keet, C.M. On the feasibility of Description Logic knowledge bases with rough concepts and vague instances. 23rd International Workshop on Description Logics (DL’10), 4-7 May 2010, Waterloo, Canada.

[4] Keet, C. M. (2012). Detecting and revising flaws in OWL object property expressions. In Proc. of EKAW’12, volume 7603 of LNAI, pages 252–266. Springer.

KCAP13 poster on aligning and mapping foundational ontologies

I announced in an earlier post the realisation of the Repository of Ontologies for MULtiple USes ROMULUS foundational ontology library as part of Zubeida’s MSc thesis, as well as that a very brief overview describing it was accepted as a poster/demo paper [1] at the 7th International Conference on Knowledge Capture (KCAP’13) that will take place next week in Banff, Canada. The ‘sneak preview’ of the poster in jpeg format is included below. To stay in style, it has roughly the same colour scheme as the ontology library.

KCAP13romulusPoster

The poster’s content is slightly updated compared to the contents of the 2-page poster/demo paper: it has more detail on the results obtained with the automated alignments. On reason for that is the limited space of the KCAP paper, another is that a more comprehensive evaluation has been carried out in the meantime. We report on those results in a paper [2] recently accepted at the 5th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13). The results of the tools aren’t great when compared to the ‘gold standard’ of manual alignments and mappings, but there are some interesting differences due to—and thanks to—the differences in the algorithms that the tools use. Mere string matching generates false positives and misses ‘semantic [near-]synonyms’ (e.g., site vs. situoid, but missing perdurant/occurrent), and a high reliance on structural similarity causes a tool to miss alignments (compare, e.g., the first subclasses in GFO vs. those in DOLCE). One feature that surely helps to weed out false positives is the cross-check whether an alignment would be logically consistent or not, as LogMap does. That is also what Zubeida did with the complete set of alignments between DOLCE, BFO, and GFO, aided by HermiT and Protégé’s explanation feature.

The KEOD paper describes those ‘trials and tribulations’; or: there are many equivalence alignments that do not map due to a logical inconsistency. They have been analysed on the root cause (mainly: disjointness axioms between higher-level classes), and, where possible, solutions are proposed, such as subsumption instead of equivalence or proposing to make them sibling classes. Two such examples of alignments that do not map are shown graphically in the poster: a faltering temporal region that apparently means something different in each of the ontologies, and necessary-for does not map to generic-dependent due to conflicting domain/range axioms. The full list of alignments, mappings, and logical inconsistencies is now not only browsable on ROMULUS, as announced in the KCAP demo paper, but also searchable.

Having said that, it is probably worthwhile repeating the same caution made in the paper and previous blog post: what should be done with the inconsistencies is a separate issue, but at least now it is known in detail where the matching problems really are, so that we can go to the next level. And some mappings are possible, so some foundational ontology interchangeability is possible (at least from a practical engineering viewpoint).

References

[1] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. Toward semantic interoperability with aligned foundational ontologies in ROMULUS. Seventh International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP’13), ACM proceedings. 23-26 June 2013, Banff, Canada. (poster &demo)

[2] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. Addressing issues in foundational ontology mediation. Fifth International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Ontology Development (KEOD’13). 19-22 September, Vilamoura, Portugal.

Release of the (beta version of the) foundational ontology library ROMULUS

With the increase on ontology development and networked ontologies, both good ontology development and ontology matching for ontology linking and integration are becoming a more pressing issue. Many contributions have been proposed in these areas. One of the ideas to tackle both—supposedly in one fell swoop—is the use of a foundational ontology. A foundational ontology aims to (i) serve as a building block in ontology development by providing the developer with guidance how to model the entities in a domain, and  (ii) serve as a common top-level when integrating different domain ontologies, so that one can identify which entities are equivalent according to their classification in the foundational ontology. Over the years, several foundational ontologies have been developed, such as DOLCE, BFO, GFO, SUMO, and YAMATO, which have been used in domain ontology development. The problem that has arisen now, is how to link domain ontologies that are mapped to different foundational ontologies?

To be able to do this in a structured fashion, the foundational ontologies have to be matched somehow, and ideally have to have some software support for this. As early as 2003, this issue as foreseen already and the idea of a “WonderWeb Foundational Ontologies Library” (WFOL) proposed, so that—in the ideal case—different domain ontologies can to commit to different but systematically related (modules of) foundational ontologies [1]. However, the WFOL remained just an idea because it was not clear how to align those foundational ontologies and, at the time of writing, most foundational ontologies were still under active development, OWL was yet to be standardised, and there was scant stable software infrastructure. Within the Semantic Web setting, the solvability of the implementation issues is within reach yet not realised, but their alignment is still to be carried out systematically (beyond the few partial comparisons in the literature).

We’re trying to solve these theoretical and practical shortcomings through the creation of the first such online library of machine-processable, aligned and merged, foundational ontologies: the Repository of Ontologies for MULtiple USes ROMULUS. This version contains alignments, mappings, and merged ontologies for DOLCE, BFO, and GFO and some modularized versions thereof, as a start. It also has a section on logical inconsistencies; i.e., entities that were aligned manually and/or automatically and seemed to refer to the same thing—e.g., a mathematical set, a temporal region—actually turned out not to be (at least from a logical viewpoint) due to other ‘interfering’ axioms in the ontologies. What one should be doing with those, is a separate issue, but at least it is now clear where the matching problems really are down to the nitty-gritty entity-level.

We performed a small experiment on the evaluation of the mappings (thanks to participants from DERI, Net2 funds, and Aidan Hogan), and we would like to have more feedback on the alignments and mappings. It is one thing that we, or some alignment tool, aligned two entities, another that asserting an equivalence ends up logically consistent (hence mapped) or inconsistent, and yet another what you think of the alignments, especially the ontology engineers. You can participate in the evaluation: you will get a small set of a few alignments at a time, and then you decide whether you agree, partially agree, or disagree with it, are unsure about it, or skip it if you have no clue.

Finally, ROMULUS also has a range of other features, such as ontology selection, a high-level comparison, browsing the ontology through WebProtégé, a verbalization of the axioms, and metadata. It is the first online library of machine-processable, modularised, aligned, and merged foundational ontologies around. A poster/demo paper [2] was accepted at the Seventh International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP’13), and papers describing details are submitted and in the pipeline. In the meantime, if you have comments and/or suggestions, feel free to contact Zubeida or me.

References

[1] Masolo, C., Borgo, S., Gangemi, A., Guarino, N., Oltramari, A. Ontology library. WonderWeb Deliverable D18 (ver. 1.0, 31-12-2003). (2003) http://wonderweb.semanticweb.org.

[2] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. Toward semantic interoperability with aligned foundational ontologies in ROMULUS. Seventh International Conference on Knowledge Capture (K-CAP’13), ACM proceedings. 23-26 June 2013, Banff, Canada. (accepted as poster &demo with short paper)

A new version of ONSET and more technical details are now available

After the first release of the foundational ONtology Selection and Explanation Tool ONSET half a year ago, we—Zubeida Khan and I—continued its development by adding SUMO, conducting a user evaluation, and we wrote a paper about it, which was recently accepted [1] at the 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’12).

There are theoretical and practical reasons why using a foundational ontology improves the quality and interoperability of the domain ontology, be this by means of reusing DOLCE, BFO, GFO, SUMO, YAMATO, or another one, in part or in whole (see, e.g., [2,3] for some motivations). But as a domain ontology developer, and those who are potentially interested in using a foundational ontology in particular, do ask: which one of them would be best to use for the task at hand? That is not an easy question to answer, and hitherto required from a developer to pore over all the documentation, weighing the pros and cons for the scenario, make an informed decision, know exactly why, and be able to communicate that. This bottleneck has been solved with the ONSET tool. Or, at least: we claim it does, and the user evaluation supports this claim.

In short, ONSET, the foundational ONtology Selection and Explanation Tool helps the domain ontology developer in this task. Upon answering one or more questions and, optionally, adding any scaling to indicate some criteria are more important to you than others, it computes the most suitable foundational ontology for that scenario and explains why this is so, including reporting any conflicting answers (if applicable). The questions themselves are divided into five different categories—Ontology, representation language, software engineering properties, applications, and subject domain—and there are “explain” buttons to clarify terms that may not be immediately clear to the domain ontology developer. (There are a few screenshots at the end of this post.)

Behind the scenes is a detailed comparison of the features of DOLCE, BFO, GFO, and SUMO, and an efficient algorithm. The latter and the main interesting aspects of the former are included in the paper; the complete set of criteria is available in a file on the ONSET webpage. You can play with ONSET using your real or a fictitious ontology development scenario after downloading the jar file. If you don’t have a scenario and can’t come up with one: try one of the scenarios we used for the user evaluation (also online). The user evaluation consisted of 5 scenarios/problems that the 18 participants had to solve, half of them used ONSET and half of them did not. On average, the ‘accuracy’ (computed from selecting the appropriate foundatinal ontology and explaining why) was 3 times higher for those who used ONSET compared to those who did not. The ONSET users also did it slightly faster.

Thus, ONSET greatly facilitates in selecting a foundational ontology. However, I concede that from the Ontology (philosophy) viewpoint, the real research component is, perhaps, only beginning. Among others, what is the real effect of the differences between those foundational ontolgoies for ontology development, if any? Is one category of criteria, or individual criterion, always deemed more important than others? Is there one or more ‘typical’ combination of criteria, and if so, is there a single particular foundational ontology suitable, and if not, where/why are the current ones insufficient? In the case of conflicts, which criteria do they typically involve? ONSET clearly can be a useful aid investigating these questions, but answering them is left to future works. Either way, ONSET contributes to taking a scientific approach to comparing and using a foundational ontology in ontology development, and provides the hard arguments why.

We’d be happy to hear your feedback on ONSET, be this on the tool itself or when you have used it for a domain ontology development project. Also, the tool is very easy to extend thanks to the way it is programmed, so if you have your own pet foundational ontology that is not yet included in the tool, you may like to provide us with the values for the criteria so that we can include it.

Here are a few screenshots: of the start page, questions and an explanation, other questions, and the result (of a fictitious example):

Startpage of ONSET, where you select inclusion of additional questions that don’t make any difference right now, and where you can apply scaling to the five categories.

Section of the questions about ontological commitments and a pop-up screen once the related “Explain” button is clicked.

Another tab with questions. In this case, the user selected “yes” to modularity, upon which the tool expanded the question so that a way of modularisation can be selected.

Section of the results tab, after having clicked “calculate results” (in this case, of a fictitious scenario). Conflicting results, if any, will be shown here as well, and upon scrolling down, relevant literature is shown.

References

[1] Khan, Z., Keet, C.M. ONSET: Automated Foundational Ontology Selection and Explanation. 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW’12). Oct 8-12, Galway, Ireland. Springer, LNAI, 15p. (accepted)

[2] Keet, C.M. The use of foundational ontologies in ontology development: an empirical assessment. 8th Extended Semantic Web Conference (ESWC’11), G. Antoniou et al (Eds.), Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 29 May-2 June, 2011. Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science LNCS 6643, 321-335.

[3] Borgo, S., Lesmo, L. The attractiveness of foundational ontologies in industry. In: Proc. of FOMI’08, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, IOS Press (2008), 1-9.