This volume contains papers accepted for the 12th edition of the Formal Ontology in Information Systems conference (FOIS 2021). The conference occurred in hybrid format involving on-site attendance in Bolzano, Italy, as well as virtual attendance online. This hybrid structure was a first for FOIS and proved to be quite successful, with sessions typically involving a mix of on-site and virtual contributions. Another first for FOIS was the integration of content from two conferences, FOIS 2020 and FOIS 2021, due to the COVID-prompted cancellation of the FOIS 2020 live program. As a result, papers accepted for FOIS 2020 were presented at FOIS 2021, with necessary adjustments to both presentation length and format.
As with FOIS 2020, FOIS 2021 occurred in the broader context of a Bolzano Summer of Knowledge event (BoSK 2021). BoSK 2021 included multiple conferences, workshops, and tutorials, all dedicated to knowledge representation. FOIS 2021 itself reflected this breadth, as it consisted of several workshops and tutorials, an Early Career Symposium, as well as dedicated Demonstration and Ontology Showcase seminars, all in addition to the FOIS 2020 and 2021 paper presentations.
Due to experience gained from FOIS 2020, the organizers made several changes to this edition of FOIS, primarily to stimulate a greater variety of contributions. Historically, FOIS has always accepted a broad range of papers. To highlight this diversity, through explicit solicitation, we introduced three different research tracks: a Foundations track for formal and theoretical issues, an Applications and Methods track for novel ontology uses, systems, approaches, and tools, and a Domain Ontology track for original or significant ontologies in a specific domain of interest. As these tracks are quite distinct, authors and reviewers were provided detailed evaluation criteria to clarify expectations. In addition, the Program Committee was nearly doubled to better reflect the diversity of the community. As a minor change, the rebuttal phase of reviewing was retained from FOIS 2020, but somewhat shortened.
Overview of Accepted Papers
As hoped, the expansion of the program committee and the introduction of different research tracks led to increased submissions of papers on applications and methods as well as on domain ontologies. In contrast, compared to FOIS 2020, fewer papers were submitted on foundational topics. There was a continuing trend in all three tracks to social and agent themes.
For FOIS 2021 we accepted 11 of 42 research paper submissions, which is an acceptance rate of 26%. The submissions ranged across a wide variety of topics, as typical for FOIS, distributed across the three research tracks:
Foundations: 5 accepted
Applications and Methods: 3 accepted
Domain Ontology: 3 accepted
The foundations track is dominated by papers concerned with representational issues: three papers focus on formalisms for multiple perspectives, concept descriptions, and certain natural language scenarios, and a fourth paper is concerned with the nature of representation itself. In Standpoint Logic: Multi-Perspective Knowledge Representation, Gómez Álvarez and Rudolph develop a logic framework for representing multiple perspectives in cases of semantic heterogeneity, with biological examples. The problem of expressing concepts, possibly within evolving or multi-perspective scenarios, is considered by Selway, Stumptner and Mayer in their paper entitled Towards Formalisation of Concept Descriptions and Constraints. As a third contribution to this track, Bennett explores logic-based representations for a particular natural language construct in Semantic Analysis of Winograd Schema No. 1, concluding representational structures such as ontologies play an important role in advancing machine resolution of the construct. From a more birds-eye view, and in the fourth accepted paper on representational issues, the ontological structure of representation itself is investigated by Mizoguchi and Borgo in An Ontology of Representation. The fifth and final paper in this track is by Fumiaki Toyoshima, Adrien Barton, Ludger Jansen and Jean-François Ethier, and is entitled Towards a Unified Dispositional Framework for Realizable Entities. It explores the ontological nature of things such as dispositions and roles, analyzed with an eye for potential application within the BFO foundational ontology.
Applications and Methods
Despite a wide variety of papers submitted to this track, the accepted papers fall into two distinct categories: (1) methodological, focused on methods related to ontology-supported concept combination and logical inconsistency, as well as (2) system-oriented, focused on a platform for collaborative ontology design. The contribution by Righetti, Porello, Troquard, Kutz, Hedblom and Galliani, entitled Asymmetric Hybrids: Dialogues for Computational Concept Combination presents an ontology-supported and dialogue-based approach to concept combination, in which contributing concepts exert unequal influence on the resulting combination. In Debugging classical ontologies using defeasible reasoning tools, Coetzer and Britz explore an approach to finding and resolving logical inconsistencies in ontologies using defeasible reasoning to strategically weaken faulty axioms. The system-oriented paper in this track describes a platform for collaborative ontology design, exemplified by development and refinement of the FIBO ontology for the financial domain in An infrastructure for collaborative ontology development – Lessons learned from developing the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) by Allemang, Garbacz, Grądzki, Kendall and Trypuz.
The three accepted papers in the domain ontology track tackle quite different subject matter, albeit all linked somehow to actual or simulated human activity, e.g. healthy living, personal data privacy, and robot action. NAct: The Nutrition and Active Ontology for healthy living by Tsatsou, Lalama, Wilson-Barnes, Hart, Cornelissen, Buys, Pagkalos, Dias, Dimitropoulos and Daras, presents an ontology of factors to support healthy living implemented in a decision system. The paper by El Ghosh and Abdulrab entitled Capturing the Basics of the GDPR in a Well-Founded Legal Domain Modular Ontology develops and evaluates an ontology to support implementation of European data protection regulations, founded on the UFO ontology. The final paper in this track explores ontological support for robotic action in Foundations of the Socio-physical Model of Activities (SOMA) for Autonomous Robotic Agents by Beßler, Porzel, Pomarlan, Vyas, Höffner, Beetz, Malaka and Bateman.
FOIS 2021 conferred three awards: best paper, distinguished paper, and best student paper. The best paper award was sponsored by IOS Press, and the best student paper award was sponsored by the Artificial Intelligence Journal. The awards were mutually exclusive, as a winner in one category could not win in another, with the best paper award taking precedence. The selection was made difficult, as ever, by a number of high quality candidates.
After much deliberation by the selection committee, the FOIS best paper award was given to Guendalina Righetti, Daniele Porello, Nicolas Troquard, Oliver Kutz, Maria Hedblom and Pietro Galliani for their contribution entitled Asymmetric Hybrids: Dialogues for Computational Concept Combination. Submitted to the Applications and Methods track, this paper provides novel insight into the integration of applied ontology and the cognitive science field of conceptual combination.
The distinguished paper award was awarded to Fumiaki Toyoshima, Adrien Barton, Ludger Jansen and Jean-François Ethier for their paper entitled Towards a Unified Dispositional Framework for Realizable Entities, which was submitted to the Foundations track. It analyzes realizable entities, such as dispositions and roles, and proposes an enhanced classification.
The best student paper award went to Simone Coetzer and Arina Britz for their entry in the Applications and Methods track entitled Debugging classical ontologies using defeasible reasoning tools, which helps identify and rectify logical inconsistencies in 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 trying circumstances of the COVID pandemic. This includes the general chair (Roberta Ferrario), the chairs of the various events, and the publicity chairs. It also includes members of the program committee, who collectively reviewed all paper submissions in concert with a small number of external reviewers. We would also 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.
A special mention is owed to the local organizers: Oliver Kutz and Nicolas Troquard. The COVID-19 pandemic led to constantly shifting policies by the Free University of Bolzano, as well as by local and national governments. This resulted in restricted and evolving travel conditions and local requirements, making long-term planning nearly impossible. Furthermore, the change to a hybrid live-virtual event led to complex infrastructure situations requiring considerable on-the-fly adjustments. While these factors were a potential recipe for disaster, in the end, and much to the credit of the local organizers, the conference proceeded smoothly and was enjoyed by both on-site and remote participants.
FOIS 2021, like its recent predecessors, was organized under the auspices of the IAOA (International Association for Ontology and its Applications). IAOA not only provides a governance framework for FOIS, but is a source of invaluable guidance during all stages of the conference. We thank IOS Press for its continued support in the publication of the FOIS proceedings and its sponsorship of the best paper award. We also thank the Artificial Intelligence Journal for sponsorship of the best student paper award. 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.
Arguably, organising a conference that involves people from many countries meeting in the Italian Alps in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic was exceedingly ambitious. The idea was certainly born out of the unjustified hope the pandemic would be over by the autumn of 2021. Our main reason for organising FOIS in 2021, on the heels of FOIS 2020, was the conviction that FOIS live events play a crucial role in the Applied Ontology community. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated the majority of our community was only able to participate remotely. Nonetheless, many of the 35 participants who did meet in Bolzano expressed the same sentiment: after 18 months without travel, and after 18 months in which scientific discourse was mostly exiled to virtual spaces, FOIS 2021 was not just a scientific event, it was also welcomed as a place to meet, debate, and reconnect with colleagues and friends.
One final observation: of the eleven research papers accepted at FOIS 2021, six were written by first authors who are either PhD students or early-career researchers. These include the best paper and the distinguished paper of FOIS 2021. That we have so many talented budding researchers in our community gives hope and optimism for the future of FOIS and Applied Ontology.