An Ontology Server for Ontology-based Interoperation of Information Systems

An Abstract of My Doctoral Research

In order for information systems supporting two different organizations to interoperate, there must be an agreement as to what the words mean. Such an agreement is often called an ontology, or description of a shared world (a.k.a domain ontology). An ontology in general is an agreed understanding (i.e. semantics) of a certain domain, axiomatized and represented formally as logical theory in a computer resource. It can enable semantic interoperability where autonomous and distributed applications can meaningfully communicate to exchange data and interoperate independently of their internal technologies.

The main goal of this thesis is twofold. First (general sense), it presents a specification for ontology engineering to guide ontology designers towards building ontology supporting interoperation of information system using a standard modeling approach. Second (specific sense), it presents a specification for what the ontology server is going to serve at commit-time. At this time, the server is used to assist players to obtain a portion of an ontology relevant to their interoperation requirement.

First, we investigate the definition of an ontology as a specification of a conceptualization by showing that an ontology supporting interoperating information systems can be seen as the result of interlocking institutional worlds (IWs). An institutional world is the collection of integrated speech acts and consequent institutional facts made by a particular institution. This institutional world is the conceptualization of which the ontology is the specification. To be more specific, we call this ontology is a domain ontology of IWs.

Second, we specify a software system, an ontology server needed to support domain ontology of IWs at commit-time for ontology engineering: 1) Commit-time requirements for an ontology server and 2) Ontology view extraction. The commit-time requirement is a functional requirement of the server to assist a player to obtain a relevant portion of an ontology. The discussion of this requirement has led to research into ontology view extraction. Based on the notion of formal ontology, our approach to ontology view extraction takes into accounts both endurants (entities that exist in time) and perdurants (entities that happen in time). Making a link to the domain ontology of IWs, the speech act is an example of event perdurant, while the institutional fact is an example of endurant. That is, our ontology view extraction involves perdurant ontology (ontology of speech acts) and endurant ontology (ontology of institutional facts).

The principal contribution of this work is our technical solution for ontology view extraction. Based on an existing structural metamodel for modeling endurant ontology developed by Guizzardi, we present a technique using existential dependency for endurant extraction starting from a seed provided by the user. Since the user wants to commit to the ontology in order to interoperate with other players, the endurant seed is derived from the actions the user wants to perform, which are described in the perdurant ontology. Our metamodel for perdurant ontology is based on an existing business process metamodel for modeling speech acts, namely, Design and Engineering Methodology for Organizations (DEMO). The seed is the institutional facts involved in the speech acts the user wants to perform. These strategies have been implemented by extending with profiles the Unified Modeling Language (UML). Generally, the perdurant ontology is represented by the UML activity diagram, while the endurant ontology is represented by the UML class diagram.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed approach, we develop several collections of running examples based on an extended hypothetical ontology for the Olympic Games.

This research is a contribution to the theory of conceptual modeling by proposing a set of specifications that can be used to model domain ontology of IWs. The specification here can be understood from two perspectives: 1) Metamodel and 2) Model. The former is addressed at meta-level which consists of metaconcepts for the languages in which the ontologies are represented. The latter is the resulting specification when these metaconcepts are used to represent some aspect of the reality or world in the domain of IWs. Most importantly, the work here contributes to the ontology server research since the view extraction based on the metamodel is what the server is going to serve.

Related Publications

  1. Colomb, R.M., Ahmad, M.N.: A Perdurant Ontology for Interoperating Information Systems Based on Interlocking Institutional Worlds. Applied Ontology (2010) 1-77
  2. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M., Sadiq, S.: A UML Profile for Perdurant Ontology of Domain Interlocking Institutional Worlds. International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management (2010) 213-232
  3. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M., Sadiq, S.: A Relevant Portion of an Ontology : Defining a System of ED Rules using a Part-Whole Relationship 2nd IEEE Asia International Conference on Modelling & Simulation Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2008)
  4. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M., Sadiq, S.: UML-based DEMO Profiles as Metaconcepts for Interlocking Institutional Worlds 12th AIS Pacific-Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS’08). AIS, Suzhou, China (2008)
  5. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M., Sadiq, S.: Utilizing Association Relationship for Selecting a Relevant Portion of an Ontology. 5th IEEE International Conference on IT and Application (ICITA’08). IEEE Cairns, Australia (2008)
  6. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M.: Commit-Time Requirements for an Ontology Server. 11th AIS Pacific-Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS’07), Auckland, New Zealand (2007) 162-172
  7. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M.: Managing Ontologies: A Comparative Study of Ontology Servers. In: Bailey, J., Fekete, A. (eds.): 18th ACS Australasian Database Conference (ADC’07), Vol. 63, Ballarat, Victoria (2007)
  8. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M.: Overview of Ontology Server Research. Journal of Webology (2007) 1-7
  9. Colomb, R.M., Ahmad, M.N.: Merging Ontologies Requires Interlocking Institutional Worlds. Applied Ontology (2007) 1-12
  10. Ahmad, M.N.: PhD Confirmation Report: Using Ontology Server to Support Interoperation of Information Systems. School of Information Technology & Electrical Engineering (2006) 50
  11. Ahmad, M.N., Wahid, M.T.: Macro-Level Analysis of Using Ontology at Commit-Time Requirements in Information Systems Interoperability Context. Jurnal Teknologi Maklumat 18 (2006) 97-113
  12. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M., Cole, J.: An Ontology Server: A Knowledge Tool for Systems Interoperability in Semantic Web Context. Jurnal Teknologi Maklumat 18 (2006) 1-23
  13. Ahmad, M.N., Colomb, R.M., Wahid, M.T.: A Survey of Ontology Servers. 2nd Malaysian Software Engineering Conference (MySec’06), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2006)
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