Ontologies for Earth Science, mini-series

Last week, on November 1 I was honored to be a panelist at  Panel session no.4  in the Mini-series on "Ontology and Semantic Technology for the Earth Science Community". This panel was organized by ONTOLOG, one of the most well-known international ontology forums. There were about 45 virtual participants.

I talked about the ontology work being done at OGC. I provided information about the connection between the OGC's open standards and the  geosciences and the need for managed identifiers and semantics within the OGC. I described the work done by the OGC Naming Authority, gave a 30 seconds tutorial to GeoSPARQL, and spoke about the semantics work performed in OWS8 and OWS9.

Other panelists provided good examples of ontology projects and the future of Earth science ontologies. Boyan Brodaric (NRC), provided an excellent presentation about formal logic for ontologies used in groundwater. Ever wondered what is the difference between cavity, depressions, hollow and tunnels? Is a river always a wet cavity?

Norman Morrison (EnvO Consortium), spoke about an environmental ontology. Slide number 11 provides an excellent overview of the ontology.

Thomas Huang (JPL), spoke about SWEET ontologies and their relationship to complex vehicles subsystems.  I noticed that the SWEET welcome page has been greatly improved, making it much easier to find related SWEET information.   

Mark Shildhauer, in his presentation, talked about possible next roads for moving Earth science ontologies forward. He made a scary statement “We have a Babel of Earth Science data. Do we risk having a Babel of metadata and ontologies as well?” Good question. I think we can respond to this question with a statement David Schell made a while ago: “Interoperability seems to be about the integration of information.  What it’s really about is the coordination of organizational behavior.” So, the work done within ONTOLOG, EarthCube, OGC Working Groups, SoOnet and other groups (see last slide from Mark) is key to bringing together the community. In other words, we need processes, governance and a neutral comfortable place to interact among each other. What organization will publish ontologies as standards in the way that the OGC publishes interface and encoding standards?