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In defense of meaninglessness: an ontologist's dilemma*

From: Sivaram Arabandi, MD <sivaram.arabandi@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2011 07:22:32 -0400
Message-Id: <693B4B78-C29F-426F-9595-C017F31197D3@gmail.com>
To: HCLS <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>
The issue of meaningless identifiers has been far more controversial than imagined. After 70+ emails in the 2 threads (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-semweb-lifesci/2011Jun/0080.html  and  http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-semweb-lifesci/2011Jun/0125.html), there is still no consensus.

The views expressed in these threads demonstrates the substantial experience of the members as well as the commitment of the group as a whole to discuss it fairly and openly. However, no consensus has emerged. Therefore, instead of continuing to bicker, perhaps this group should approach it more scientifically and setup experiment(s) to test the hypothesis that "MEANINGLESS (identifier) IS MEANINGFUL".

As a member of the standards body, perhaps this would be worthy goal of the HCLS charter. 

The ramifications of the proposed change to meaningless identifiers is quite far reaching. If not approached careful, it will result in alienating a substantial portion of the community. Hence, it is imperative that such a move must build consensus before being undertaken.

The current rationale put forward by OBO Foundry (http://obofoundry.org/id-policy.shtml) has not been convincing - hence this current controversy. The OBO Foundry should acknowledge this reality and work towards consensus building by collaborating and constructing useful "proof of concept" use cases that demonstrate the benefits of the "meaningless identifiers" in the Semantic Web area. Not doing so will result in the very thing that the Foundry and HCLS is trying to avoid - fragmentation!

* subject line is an adaptation of Michael Pollan's bestsellers on food.  :)

Sivaram Arabandi, MD, MS
Ph:  216.374.2883

Received on Thursday, 23 June 2011 11:23:04 UTC

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