Toward Distributed Use of Large-Scale Ontologies

Bill Swartout, Ramesh Patil, Kevin Knight and Tom Russ

Large scale knowledge bases systems are difficult and expensive to construct. If we could share knowledge across systems, costs would be reduced. However, because knowledge bases are typically constructed from scratch, each with their own idiosyncratic structure, sharing is difficult. Recent research has focused on the use of ontologies to promote sharing. An ontology is a hierarchically structured set of terms for describing a domain that can be used as a skeletal foundation for a knowledge base. If two knowledge bases are built on a common ontology, knowledge can be more readily shared, since they share a common underlying structure. This paper outlines a set of desiderata for ontologies, and then describes how we have used a large-scale (50,000+ concept) ontology develop a specialized, domain-specific ontology semiautomatically. We then discuss the relation between ontologies and the process of developing a system, arguing that to be useful, an ontology needs to be created as a "living document", whose development is tightly integrated with the system’s. We conclude with a discussion of Web-based ontology tools we are developing to support this approach.

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