Ebook: Formal Ontology in Information Systems
FOIS is the flagship conference of the International Association for Ontology and its Applications, a non-profit organization which promotes interdisciplinary research and international collaboration at the intersection of philosophical ontology, linguistics, logic, cognitive science, and computer science, as well as in the applications of ontological analysis to conceptual modeling, knowledge engineering, knowledge management, information-systems development, library and information science, scientific research, and semantic technologies in general.
This volume presents the 17 papers accepted for the 11th Formal Ontology in Information Systems conference (FOIS 2020). These papers cover a broad range of topics and are organized into 5 groups. Foundations is dedicated to the general ontological decisions providing a foundation for any ontology, both from a philosophical perspective and with an emphasis on applications. Social Entities is dedicated to the ontological analysis and formalization of various social entities, including secrets, legal theories, decisions, kinship, and cultural heritage. The papers in Intentionality and Embodiment analyze aspects of an agent's intentions, beliefs and desires, as well as the embodiment of functional relations. The section on Parts and Wholes is dedicated to mereology as well as the mereological analysis of certain types of entities (e.g., pluralities, information entities, and computer programs). Lastly, the papers in Methods are about ontology evaluation and use.
Altogether, the papers reflect traditional FOIS themes with perhaps a greater emphasis on social and agent aspects, and will be of interest to all those whose work involves ontology and its applications.
This volume contains the papers accepted for the 11th edition of the Formal Ontology in Information Systems conference, FOIS 2020, intended to occur in Bolzano, Italy, 14th–17th September 2020. FOIS 2020 was to be an integral part of the Bolzano Summer of Knowledge, which included a broad range of conferences, workshops and summer schools pertaining to knowledge representation.
Sadly, FOIS 2020 was not able to occur as planned. The year 2020 was inimically shaped by the COVID-19 virus, which – at the time of this writing – has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands. As both long-distance travel and large-group meetings contributed to the spread of the pandemic, it became quickly apparent that it would be impossible to organize FOIS as a physical event in Bolzano in 2020. For these reasons the FOIS 2020 physical event was cancelled.
However, in consultation with the International Association of Ontology and its Applications (IAOA), the professional association governing FOIS, the decision was made to publish the FOIS 2020 papers as a high-quality conference proceeding in 2020 (this volume), roughly at the originally planned time of the conference.
Furthermore, in recognition of FOIS’ important social function within the applied ontology community, which, for example, a virtual event could not satisfy, it was also decided to run a FOIS edition in September 2021. FOIS 2021 will happen in Bolzano, and it will include all the events originally planned for FOIS 2020 including the Early Career Symposium, the Ontology Show and Tell, as well as the Demo and Industrial Track. And, of course, there will be another call for research papers in early 2021. Authors of papers accepted for FOIS 2020 will also have the option to present their work at FOIS 2021.
Overview of Accepted Papers
For FOIS 2020 we accepted 17 of 42 research paper submissions, which is an acceptance rate of 40.4%. As usual in FOIS, the papers cover a broad range of topics. For the purpose of organizing this volume we grouped them into the following categories:
Intentionality and Embodiment
Parts and Wholes
These categories reflect traditional FOIS themes, with perhaps a greater emphasis in this edition on social and agent aspects. They also reflect a decline in consideration of other topics, such as physical or abstract entities, as well as a reduction in applied contributions.
This first section is dedicated to the general ontological decisions providing a foundation for any ontology, with the opening two papers being more philosophically oriented. In An analysis of the debate over structural universals Garbacz provides an overview of the debate on structural universals, and classifies the various theories of structural universals by their main facets. Next, Toyoshima provides an overview of criteria for the distinction between 3D- and 4D-entities in Foundations for Ontology of Persistence: Beyond Talk of Temporal Parts. In the light of these criteria he compares the ways BFO, DOLCE and GFO distinguish between 3D- and 4D-entities. The remaining two papers in this section concern progress on a foundational ontology and an analysis of ontology languages. In preparation for their release of GFO 2.0, Burek, Loebe, and Herre summarise important research results in Towards GFO 2.0: Architecture, Modules and Applications, and also discuss how GFO 2.0 will shift to a modular architecture. In An analysis of commitments in ontology language design, Fillottrani and Keet compare popular ontology languages along various criteria, and focus on the ontological commitments embedded in an ontology language.
This section contains four papers providing an ontological analysis and formalization of various social entities, including secrets, legal theories and decisions, kinship, and cultural heritage. The section begins with the Best Paper award winner A Commonsense Theory of Secrets, by Ismail and Shafie, in which a secret is a 5-ary relation consisting of a proposition hidden by one group from another group while some condition is met at a time. In Legal Theories and Judicial Decision-Making: An Ontological Analysis, Griffo, Almeida and Guizzardi show how different legal theories underpinning two distinct ontologies can support judicial decisions. In An Ontology for Formal Models of Kinship, Chui, Gruninger and Wong develop a kinship ontology in first-order logic, one inspired by anthropological models as well as related algebraic structures, and capable of representing a variety of family relations. The final submission in this section, by Sanfilippo, Pittet and Markhoff, Ontological analysis and modularization of CIDOC-CRM, carries out a formal analysis of the CIDOC standard ontology for culture heritage data modelling and proposes a modularization of the ontology.
Intentionality and Embodiment
The group of papers in this section analyze aspects of an agent’s intentions, beliefs and desires, as well as the embodiment of functional relations. An ontological analysis of needs is developed by Biccheri, Ferrario and Porello in Needs and intentionality – An ontological analysis and an application to public services, which draws on philosphical work in intentionality and is represented in the DOLCE ontology. Foundations for an Ontology of Belief, Desire and Intention, by Toyoshima, Barton and Grenier, develops an ontological framework and formalism in which beliefs and desires have dispositional and occurrent aspects, while intentions are dispositional. Turning from intentions to embodiment in the final contribution in this section, Pomarlan and Bateman propose a formalism for embodied functional relations, such as containment and support, in Embodied functional relations: a formal account combining abstract logical theory with grounding in simulation. The formalism combines high level abstraction with simulation to help address relevant questions faced by agents.
Parts and Wholes
In A Mereology for Connected Structures Grüninger, Chui, Ru, and Thai argue that in some domains – contrary to classical mereology – some underlapping objects do not have a sum. They propose a mereotopology (and a corresponding mereology), which requires sums of underlapping objects to be connected. The other three papers in this section are not about mereology per se, but are about the composition of certain types of entities, with mereological analysis of these entities at their core. In Collectives, Composites and Pluralities Masolo, Vieu, Ferrario, Borgo, and Porello analyse the difference between composites (e.g., a car), collectives (e.g., an orchestra), and the pluralities (i.e., non-atomic objects) that constitute them. The mereological structure of informational entities by Barton, Toyoshima, Vieu, Fabry and Ethier presents an axiomatization of a mereology for information entities; in particular for information entities like official forms, which are structured by information slots and information fillers. A particular kind of information entity, namely the computer program, is the subject of Keet’s The computer program as a functional whole. She argues that a computer program, which consists of many individual source files, is not a collection (or set) of artifacts, but a functional whole.
The two papers in this section deal with ontology evaluation and use. The first paper, A Study of Two Spatial Ontologies by Stephen and Hahmann, analyzes the key impediments to verifying first-order logic ontologies via model-finding, develops an approach to minimize the impediments, and demonstrates benefits of the approach with tests on two spatial ontologies. The second and last paper in the section, and in this FOIS volume, Ontology-Driven Cross-Domain Transfer Learning by Fumagalli, Bella, Conti and Giunchiglia, develops and tests an approach to leverage ontologies within machine-learning, to facilitate re-use (transfer) of models across different machine-learning tasks.
The FOIS 2020 Best Paper award is given to Haythem Ismail and Merna Shafie for their contribution entitled A Commonsense Theory of Secrets. This paper, which presents a new ontological analysis and formal representation of secrets, received the highest scores from reviewers and garnered the most award nominations. In addition, while it fits neatly into a major theme for this FOIS – the ontological analysis of social entities – the topic of secrets is relatively novel and thus quite interesting, and the paper’s clear explanations should make it accessible to a wide audience. We congratulate the authors on their winning contribution.
Possible Future Directions
For FOIS 2020 we introduced a rebuttal phase during the reviewing process. It allowed authors to respond to initial reviews prior to their finalization and before a decision was made on a paper. This change was received positively overall, and is likely to be continued in FOIS 2021.
The large majority of both submissions and the accepted papers for FOIS 2020 are theoretical in nature. Thus, this volume is strong on Formal Ontology, while the Information Systems aspect of FOIS is somewhat underrepresented. Future editions of FOIS might attempt to address this imbalance: by soliciting more papers that focus on methods and tools to build and use ontologies, as well as descriptions, evaluations, and implementations of non-foundational ontologies.
Authors of all submitted papers, accepted or not, are sincerely thanked for their submissions. These not only enable the conference program to be built, but also serve to keep the conference series robust and current, while bolstering the applied ontology community.
Conferences such as FOIS also rely heavily on the diligent work of the organizing committee, who are especially thanked for their exceptional efforts during the special circumstances of the COVID pandemic. This includes both the general chair (Roberta Ferrario), as well as the chairs of various tracks, some of whom were deep into track organization only to have their track postponed until 2021. It also includes members of the program committee, who collectively reviewed all paper submissions in concert with a small number of external reviewers. A special round of thanks is also owed to the publicity chairs and the local organizers, who were perhaps most impacted by the special circumstances and made considerable adjustments on-the-fly to enable this FOIS to occur. Last, but not least, we would like to thank Megan Katsumi, the proceedings chair, whose aid was instrumental in the creation of this volume. A full listing of the organizing committee is included after this preface.
FOIS 2020, like its recent predecessors, is organized under the auspices of the IAOA. IAOA not only provides a governance framework for FOIS, but is a source of invaluable guidance during all stages of the conference. We also thank IOS Press for its continued support in the publication of the FOIS proceedings. The following sponsors are also gratefully acknowledged: the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano as well as its KRDB Research Centre for Knowledge and Data, and the Italian National Lab for Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems.
The paper outlines a conceptual framework to identify all ontological and logical aspects relevant for the debate over structural universals. The framework allows for a multi-facetted classifications of various accounts of the latter and facilitates their comparison in a systematic way. To show the framework in action I use it to classify all major theoretical positions in this debate.
Persistence is about how things behave across time. It is generally discussed in terms of endurantism (three-dimensionalism) and perdurantism (four-dimensionalism). Despite the relevance of persistence to ontological modeling, however, there is no clear consensus over how to characterize precisely those two theories of persistence. This paper takes the initial steps towards a foundation for ontology of persistence. In particular, I examine by employing recent findings from philosophy of persistence how some major upper ontologies conceptualize endurantism and perdurantism. My resulting modest suggestion is that formal-ontological discussion on persistence should be updated by expanding its perspective beyond the topic of whether objects have proper temporal parts or not.
The General Formal Ontology (GFO) is a top-level ontology that has been developed by the Onto-Med Research Group since the early 2000s. Since that time several new theoretical results have been achieved as well as numerous projects have utilized the ontology, especially in complex domains such as bioinformatics and medical computer science. This leads to the need for an up-to-date overview of GFO and access to its applications.
This paper represents the first step towards introducing the GFO 2.0 framework, which aims at the integration of the work that is already present, but scattered in various publications, and its provision as a ready-to-use and reusable framework. For this purpose we summarize key features of GFO so far, outline a novel modular architecture and survey first modules for GFO 2.0, linking to applications. Finally, a rigorous and systematic development process is indicated.
Multiple ontology languages have been developed over the years, which brings afore two key components: how to select the appropriate language for the task at hand and language design itself. This engineering step entails examining the ontological ‘commitments’ embedded into the language, which, in turn, demands for an insight into what the effects of philosophical viewpoints may be on the design of a representation language. But what are the sort of commitments one should be able to choose from that have an underlying philosophical point of view, and which philosophical stances have a knock-on effect on the specification or selection of an ontology language? In this paper, we provide a first step towards answering these questions. We identify and analyse ontological commitments embedded in logics, or that could be, and show that they have been taken in well-known ontology languages. This contributes to reflecting on the language as enabler or inhibitor to formally characterising an ontology or an ontological investigation, as well as the design of new ontology languages following the proposed design process.
In this paper, we expose the legal theories underlying two important classes of Legal Core Ontologies and show how these ontologies inherit both limitations and benefits (such as explanatory power) of their underlying theories. We do that with the help of a real case study in which we have normative omission and collision of principles. We use this case study to conduct an ontological analysis of the support for judicial decision-making in LKIF-Core (representing Kelsen’s Pure Theory of the Law) and UFO-L (representing Robert Alexy’s Theory of Constitutional Rights). We show that UFO-L is able to articulate the semantics of the content of judicial decisions by making explicit the individual’s legal positions that are raised in argumentation along a legal process. The same cannot be said of LKIF-Core that is based on the Kelsenian stance and focuses on the representation of general norms (norm types) and subsumption of facts to these norms.
With the advent of social robots, precise accounts of an increasing number of social phenomena are called for. Although the phenomenon of secrets is an important part of everyday social situations, logical accounts of it can only be found, in a rather strict sense, within logical investigations of systems security. This paper is an attempt to formalize the logic of a commonsense notion of secrets as a contribution to ontologies of social and epistemological phenomena. We take a secret to be a five-way relation between a proposition, a group of secret-keepers, a group of nescients, a condition of secrecy, and a time point. A bare-bones notion of secrets is defined by providing necessary and sufficient conditions for said relation to hold. Special classes of secrets are then identified by considering an assortment of extra conditions. The logical language employed formalizes a classical account of belief and intention, a theory of groups, and a novel notion of revealing. In such a rich theory, interesting properties of secrets are proved.
The near ubiquity of family relationship ontologies in the Semantic Web has brought on the question of whether any formal analysis has been done in this domain. This paper examines kinship relationships that are normally overlooked in formal analyses of domain-specific ontologies: how are such ontologies verified and validated? We draw inspiration from existing work done in anthropology, where attempts have been made to formally model kinship as atemporal algebraic models. Based on these algebraic models, we provide an ontology for kinship written in first-order logic and demonstrate how the ontology can be used to validate definitions found in Canadian legal laws and data collection documentation.
The CIDOC-CRM ontology is a standard for cultural heritage data modeling. Despite its large exploitation, the ontology is primarily maintained in a semi-formal notation, which makes it difficult to homogeneously exploit it in digital environments. In addition, the ontology consists of several classes and relations, whereas one sometimes wishes to reuse it but only partially. The purpose of the paper is to contribute to the use of CIDOC by strengthening its foundations. On the basis of formal ontology theories, we propose a first analysis of the ontology to enhance its conceptual structure. We also present a preliminary modularization of CIDOC aimed at enhancing both its formalization and usage.
A thorough understanding of what needs are is fundamental for designing well-behaved information systems for many social applications and in particular for public services. Talking about needs pervades indeed the jargon of Public Administrations when motivating their service offering. In this paper, we propose an ontological analysis of needs, aiming at a principled disentangling of the different uses of the term. We leverage philosophical tradition on intentionality, for its rich understanding of mental entities, we compare it with the well-established BDI (Belief-Desire-Intention) tradition in knowledge representation, and we propose a formalisation of needs within the foundational ontology DOLCE. Throughout the paper, we motivate our analysis focusing on needs in public services.
Belief, desire, and intention are central notions in mentality and agency. We provide conceptual and formal foundations for an ontology of those mental entities. In this framework, beliefs and desires have a dual face: dispositional and occurrent. As distinct from beliefs and desires, intentions are dispositions to actions that emerge from a decision process in which occurrent beliefs and occurrent desires interact. We also discuss how our theory can be extended to some major philosophical accounts of desires, and cognitive biases such as wishful thinking.
Functional relations such as containment or support have proven difficult to formalize. Although previous efforts have attempted this using hybrids of several theories, from mereology to temporal logic, we find that such purely symbolic approaches do not account for the embodied nature of functional relations, i.e. that they are used by embodied agents to describe fragments of a physical world. We propose a formalism that combines descriptions of a high level of abstraction with generative models that can be used to instantiate or recognize arrangements of objects and trajectories conforming to qualitative descriptions. The formalism gives an account of how a qualitative description of a scene or arrangement of objects can be converted into a quantitative description amenable to simulation, and how simulation results can be qualitatively interpreted. We use this to describe functional relations between objects in terms of spatial arrangements, expectations on behavior, and counterfactual expectations for when one of the participants is absent. Our method is able to tackle important questions facing an agent operating in the world, such as what would happen if an arrangement of objects is created and why. This gives the agent a deeper understanding of functional relations, including what role background objects, not explicitly asserted to participate in a functional relation such as containment, play in enabling or hindering the relation from holding.
Classical mereology is based on the assumption that any two underlapping elements have a sum, yet there are many domains (such as manufacturing assemblies, molecular structure, gene sequences, and convex time intervals) in which this assumption is not valid. In such domains, mereological sums must be connected objects. However, there has been little work in providing an axiomatization of such a mereology. Based on the observation that the underlying structures in these domains are represented by graphs, we propose a new mereotopology that axiomatizes the connected induced subgraph containment ordering for a graph, and then identify an axiomatization of the mereology that is a module of the mereotopology.
Forests, cars and orchestras are very different ontological entities, and yet very similar in some aspects. The relationships they have with the elements they are composed of is often assumed to be reducible to standard ontological relations, like parthood and constitution, but how this could be done is still debated. This paper sheds light on the issue starting from a linguistic and philosophical analysis aimed at understanding notions like plurality, collective and composite, and proposing a formal approach to characterise them. We conclude the presentation with a discussion and analysis of social groups within this framework.
This article provides the basis of a formal axiomatic system for a mereology of informational entities based on the idea of information fillers that can occupy information slots, such as the same word that can be used in different sentences. It is inspired by Karen Bennett’s mereological system that enables a whole to have a part “twice over”, but differs from it in several key points, such as the acceptance of empty slots, and the possibility for slots to have slots. Information slots are analyzed as informational entities that can carry aboutness.
Sharing, downloading, and reusing software is common-place, some of which is carried out legally with open source software. When it is not legal, it is unclear how many infringements have taken place: does an infringement count for the artefact as a whole or for each source file of a computer program? To answer this question, it must first be established whether a computer program should be considered as an integral whole, a collection, or a mere set of distinct files, and why. We argue that a program is a functional whole, availing of, and combining, arguments from mereology, granularity, modularity, unity, and function to substantiate the claim. The argumentation and answer contributes to the ontology of software artefacts, may assist industry in litigation cases, and demonstrates that the notion of unifying relation is operationalisable.
Use and reuse of an ontology requires prior ontology verification which encompasses, at least, proving that the ontology is internally consistent and consistent with representative datasets. First-order logic (FOL) model finders are among the only available tools to aid us in this undertaking, but proving consistency of FOL ontologies is theoretically intractable while also rarely succeeding in practice, with FOL model finders scaling even worse than FOL theorem provers. This issue is further exacerbated when verifying FOL ontologies against datasets, which requires constructing models with larger domain sizes.
This paper presents a first systematic study of the general feasibility of SAT-based model finding with FOL ontologies. We use select spatial ontologies and carefully controlled synthetic datasets to identify key measures that determine the size and difficulty of the resulting SAT problems. We experimentally show that these measures are closely correlated with the runtimes of Vampire and Paradox, two state-of-the-art model finders. We propose a definition elimination technique and demonstrate that it can be a highly effective measure for reducing the problem size and improving the runtime and scalability of model finding.
The aim of transfer learning is to reuse learnt knowledge across different contexts. In the particular case of cross-domain transfer (also known as domain adaptation), reuse happens across different but related knowledge domains. While there have been promising first results in combining learning with symbolic knowledge to improve cross-domain transfer results, the singular ability of ontologies for providing classificatory knowledge has not been fully exploited so far by the machine learning community. We show that ontologies, if properly designed, are able to support transfer learning by improving generalization and discrimination across classes. We propose an architecture based on direct attribute prediction for combining ontologies with a transfer learning framework, as well as an ontology-based solution for cross-domain generalization based on the integration of top-level and domain ontologies. We validate the solution on an experiment over an image classification task, demonstrating the system’s improved classification performance.