The foundations of virtual ontology networks

Adamou, Alessandro; Ciancarini, Paolo; Gangemi, Aldo and Presutti, Valentina (2013). The foundations of virtual ontology networks. In: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Semantic Systems - I-SEMANTICS '13, ACM, pp. 49–56.




The notion of ontology network is relatively recent and rooted in the field of knowledge engineering. It concerns those ontology networks assembled at design time and established by their authors. Nowadays, however, the need to deal with heterogeneous semantic data sources, such as Linked Data and reengineered resources, gives rise to new use cases: ontologies now also need to be selected and combined in ways that were unpredictable at design time. This process is non-trivial and error-prone: if improperly dealt with, it can lead to loss of expressivity when interpreting resources (e.g. RDF graphs) as ontologies. Previous attempts at formally representing ontology relations assumed a controlled environment where axioms are unequivocally determined, and as such did not need to capture this distinction and its creeping issues.

One possible solution is to assemble ontology networks at runtime by mimicking part of the design-time process; however, this requires that the difference between ontology networks assembled statically by their authors, and dynamically by consumer agents, be formally represented. The notion of virtual ontology network introduced here establishes this distinction. In this paper, we provide the theoretical underpinnings of virtual ontology network management. We define the representational primitives and abstract relationships that virtual networks are constructed upon.

To validate the theory and demonstrate the feasibility of virtualization in contemporary ontology management, we show that this formal framework is compatible with the existing theory of ontology relations. To that end, we illustrate which constructs from existing representation languages can be used to implement the relations that characterize a virtual ontology network. We show this both in OWL 2 and with ε-connections. This paper is a prelude to actual virtualization methods that we have devised and implemented: the finalization of their evaluation is underway and will be presented as a follow-up to the work presented herein.

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