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process to discover and adopt/adapt relationships

From: John Graybeal <graybeal@mbari.org>
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 2009 18:39:03 -0700
Message-Id: <23704C90-1490-4867-952D-3678FCBCC577@mbari.org>
To: Semantic Web <semantic-web@w3.org>
I have a question of 'best practice' (uh oh).

When you need an ontology for a purpose (like creating a controlled  
set of terms to describe a domain area, let's say for authoritatively  
populating a drop-down list), there are two stages of work: (1) Find  
what exists. [2] If what exists doesn't fit the need, subset or expand  

For step [1], I go to Watson and Swoogle and Google-('.owl' only),  
enter some appropriate search terms, and try to weed through the  
morass of sources that result, eliminating mail lists and other  

What else should I be doing to have a reasonable shot at finding the  
almost perfect, already existing ontology?

[2] Now, inevitably, there are many ontologies that have some piece of  
what I want, and a few that have way more than what I want.  Now  
what?  I can (a) piece together parts of each ontology (means  
importing them all?), (b) use one of the mother-of-all-ontologies or  
vocabularies (cyc, wordnet, others?) as is (means importing the whole  
thing?), (c) create a new ontology that associates concepts to those  
in other ontologies (either sameAs or more subtle relationships), or  
(d) some combination of the above.

It looks to me like if I want to provide a specific list of terms,  
that don't overlap, have clear definitions, are unambiguous, and fill  
the domain space, I will almost always have to create that entire list  
on my own (then I can map it to other concepts if I want to be a good  

Even if I find a very solid ontology that meets these criteria,  
inevitably it has more or fewer concepts than I want to show the users  
of my ontology. So presenting just the right variation of the ontology  
requires...another ontology.  (I guess extension can be done by  
importing, and adding the few extra terms. But subsetting seems  
awkward, unless one can import and _deprecate_ a few terms?)

Is there something fundamental I've missed in the best practices and  
technologies that people are using for this use case?  Or are we  
inevitably in a world full of duplications, possibly with some  
extensions and specializations?


John Graybeal   <mailto:graybeal@mbari.org>  -- 831-775-1956
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Metadata Interoperability Project: http://marinemetadata.org
Received on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 01:39:57 UTC

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