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.