Debugging Enterprise Ontologies

Michael Uschold gave a talk at the International Workshop on Completing and Debugging the Semantic Web held in Crete on May 30, 2016.   Here is a preview of the white paper, “Finding and Avoiding Bugs in Enterprise Ontologies” by Michael Uschold:

Finding and Avoiding Bugs in Enterprise Ontologies

Abstract: We report on ten years of experience building enterprise ontologies for commercial clients. We describe key properties that an enterprise ontology should have, and illustrate them with many real world examples. They are: correctness, understandability, usability, and completeness. We give tips and guidelines for how best to use inference and explanations to identify and track down problems. We describe a variety of techniques that catch bugs that an inference engine will not find, at least not on its own. We describe the importance of populating the ontology with data to drive out more bugs. We point out some common ontology design practices in the community that lead to bugs in ontologies and in downstream semantic web applications based on the ontologies. These include proliferation of namespaces, proliferation of properties and inappropriate use of domain and range. We recommend doing things differently to prevent bugs from arising.

In a manner analogous to software debugging, ontologies need to be rid of their flaws. The types of flaws to be found in an ontology are slightly different than those found in software, and revolve around the ideas of correctness, understandability, usability and completeness. We report on our experience (spanning more than a decade) in building and debugging enterprise ontologies for large companies in a wide variety of industries including: finance, healthcare, legal research, consumer products, electrical devices, manufacturing and digital assets. For the growing number of companies starting to use ontologies, the norm is to build a single ontology for a point solution in one corner of the business. For large companies, this leads to any number of independently developed ontologies resulting in many of the same heterogeneity problems that ontologies are supposed to solve. It would help if they all used the same upper ontology, but most upper ontologies are unsuitable for enterprise use. They are hard to understand and use because they are large and complex, containing much more than is necessary, or the focus is too academic to be of use in a business setting. So the first step is to start with a small, upper, enterprise ontology such as gist [McComb 2006], which includes core concepts relevant to almost any enterprise. The resulting enterprise ontology itself will consist of a mixture of concepts that are important to any enterprise in a given industry, and those that are important to a particular enterprise. An enterprise ontology plays the role of an upper ontology for all the ontologies in a company (Fig. 1). Major divisions will import and extend it. Ontologies that are specific to particular applications will, in turn, import and extend those. The enterprise ontology evolves to be the semantic foundation for all major software systems and databases that are core to the enterprise.

Click here to download the white paper.

Click here to download the presentation.

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