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RE: An argument for bridging information models and ontologies at the syntactic level

From: Kashyap, Vipul <VKASHYAP1@PARTNERS.ORG>
Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2008 15:27:16 -0400
Message-ID: <DBA3C02EAD0DC14BBB667C345EE2D1240236D14A@PHSXMB20.partners.org>
To: "Ogbuji, Chimezie" <OGBUJIC@ccf.org>, <public-hcls-coi@w3.org>, <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>
To get right to the point, 1) I consider approaches that attempt to perform this
bridging directly between information models and ontologies as examples of this
'anti-pattern.' 2) I think that performing this bridging at the syntactic level
addresses the important problem of properly separating these two  in a way that
emphasizes their strengths. 
[VK] I am not sure whether there is merit in the differentiation between
terminologies and information models as they are essentially the same thing.
Take a look at Snomed, and you would know what I mean.
In my mind this separation is more an artifact of implementation considerations
rather than due to semantic issues. 

I would like to offer an alternative view point because I think consensus on
this particular topic is a significant roadblock to a clear path for moving
healthcare terminology systems more towards formal knowledge representation
(where they need to be) in a way that doesn't do so at the expense of the
strengths of information models and conceptual models ('models of meaning' or
ontologies, etc..).

Information models are better equipped to handle messaging, data manipulation,
validation, document management (and structured, controlled data entry) 
[VK] Given the definition above, I would more view this as an implementation or
data model.
 than most (I'd venture to say 'all') formal knowledge representations and
knowledge representations are better equipped to handle expressive
conceptualizations of the real world and inference.  Neither should attempt to
do the job of the other and doing so seems fundamentally problematic to me.
[VK] The definition of knowledge representation above is closer in my mind to
the notion of an information model, where the focus should be on describing
information as opposed to describing structures
for messaging, data manipulation, etc. 

In a perfect world, a messaging dialect (such as HL7 RIM or even Atom for that
matter) would be developed with a formal conceptualization as part of its
specification.  This conceptualization would be captured in a formal knowledge
representation (such as some particular fragment of FOL, for instance) as a way
to reach consensus on the 'real world' entities that the messages refer to. 
[VK] Agreed. Furthermore, one could specify a set of well defined
transformations a-la GRDDL to map these information models to
implementation/data models. 

I consider this separation a good practice and it is (perhaps) no surprise that
this is how most Semantic Web knowledge representation dialects are formulated
(OWL 1.1 and RIF for instance): First there is consensus on their semantics then
there is a dialog about how the language is serialized.  Even if they don't
happen in that particular order they typically happen independently.
[VK] In general, I agee with the separation principle, just that we have
somewhat different definitions of an information model. I do get the sense that
we are trying to say the same thing. 

There are two ways to skin this cat, IMHO.  You can attempt to capture both the
information model as well as the conceptualization (or ontology) in a formal
knowledge representation (which seems to be the more common approach).  
[VK] I would prefer this approach.
 I think it is incredibly important that such a model does not inherit any
notions of data constructs, validation, etc. since the necessity of this is
completely removed by the syntactic mapping.
[VK] I agree with this statement emphatically. 

In short, I think developing a syntactic mapping eliminates the need to
basically bastardize a knowledge representation into doing what it was never
designed to do (capture structural, representationsl, and data-oriented
constraints).  Leave that to the originating model (which, by all accounts, has
done that particular job quite well).  My concern that this is a better practice
has been the main reason why most of my attempts to demonstrate the value of
aligning HL7 to 'reference ontologies' for healthcare have been through the use
of syntactic mappings (via GRDDL for instance) than to try to bite off an
unnecessarily large chunk of capturing both an information model and a model of
meaning in a single framework.
[VK] I think the GRDDL standard has a big role to play in this regards.

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Received on Wednesday, 26 March 2008 19:28:00 UTC

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