An overview of top level ontologies
Ontologies are mostly created for a specific purpose as for OEPI that is the creation of an ontology for environmental performance indicators. Apart from these specific ontologies there are also more general ones that are called top level or upper ontologies. They serve as a kind of superstructure above the specific domain, task and application ontologies. Its purpose is to provide the possibility to integrate specialized ontologies into a generic semantic context that is levelled above them. Examples for such ontologies are those that provide proper integration of concepts into the earth system, common time and space knowledge or just proper mapping to a multilingual dictionary or thesaurus.
During the development of OEPI’s ontology for environmental performance indicators, several top level ontologies have been reviewed. This is part of the ontology design process as by that it may be avoided to create an own comprehensive top level ontology which is a complex and lengthy task. The basis for the research done was a comprehensive review done by Mascardi, V., Cordì, V. and Rosso, P. (2007): A comparison of upper ontologies, Proceedings of Conf. on Agenti e industria: Applicazioni tecnologiche degli agenti software, WOA07, Genova, Italy, pp. 24-25. They developed a set of criteria to evaluate several ontologies. By that we could have a better understanding of the most important top level ontologies that exist.
The evaluated ontologies are in detail:
- The Basic Formal Ontology (BFO)
- The Cyc Project
- The General Formal Ontology (GFO)
- The PROTo ONtology (PROTON)
- Sowa’s ontology
- The Suggested Upper Merged Ontology (SUMO)
During our review we found that most top level ontologies have common agreements of top level issues like objects, world, properties, events or processes. Nevertheless many of the evaluated ontologies are already geared toward specific purposes like for example the medical domain, natural sciences or language processing. So it will make more sense to have the OEPI ontology mapped to existing abstract concepts of one or several of the ontologies from above.
If you know of additional top level ontologies that may be added to this list, please let us know and we might include it here.