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European Japanese Ontology Interaction

Final Report Summary - EUJOINT (European Japanese Ontology Interaction)

The EUJOINT exchange programme conjoined two areas of research: foundational ontology and engineering design. Foundational ontology focuses on the study of the essential elements that allow to define notions of general interest. The goal of applied ontology is to study, organise and logically formalise these notions with attention to philosophical motivations. Engineering design is the area of engineering dealing with the early phases in the product life cycle.

The programme developed a joint study of ontology and engineering around four topics, namely:

1. formalisation and comparison of foundational ontologies of relevance to the programme partners;
2. study of the notions of role, agent and action with the aim of integrating the partners' existing approaches;
3. comparison of notions of artifacts from different perspectives;
4. study of the notions of function and malfunction form the ontological and engineering viewpoints.

The specific set of notions studied in EUJOINT is needed for the conceptual organisation of fairly general domains (role, agent, artifact, function) so that it is possible to rely on these to build robust and interoperable frameworks for the automatic management of information content.

All work developed within EUJOINT is completed by a formal representation of at least the main results within an expressive logical language endowed with clear semantics, namely first-order logic. This choice emphasises the relevance that semantic transparency has for foundational studies and, more generally, for knowledge systems that focus on general concepts, like those listed earlier and general relations such as participation, dependence and parthood.

The most relevant results of the EUJOINT exchange programme, beside the development of an international network on these topics, are relative to the explicit comparison of different perspectives with the development of a common terminology and shared understanding of the domain among the participants. This applies to work on the comparison of the Dolce and Yamato ontologies, the formalisation of an important fragment of the latter, the ontological and function-based investigation of technical artifacts, the study of roles as a special type of concepts and their use to solve the so-called counting problem, to the formal reconstruction of the notion of function as used in the engineering domain (with its related notions like intentionality, behaviour, input-output relations, decomposability) and including the ontological description of the notions of malfunctioning and failure.

Overall, the EUJOINT results are of theoretical interest and are aimed to researchers with an interest in foundations and ontology at large. Indeed, EUJOINT work goes beyond foundational ontology per se and provides important elements and results (especially in engineering) for the so-called core ontologies, i.e. the branch of ontology devoted to the study of general notions for a specific domain.

The activities were organised via a preparation phase on a few arguments followed by one or two months visits of researchers to other participating institutions. The IRSES programme funded expenses for these visits only.The project led to about 20 international publications in journals, conferences and workshops. Among the dissemination activities, we list the special issue 'On the ontology of functions' in the Applied Ontology Journal (vol. 6 no. 2, 2011); the FOMI 2011 workshop hosted by TU Delft; and the course 'Formal ontologies for engineering' held at ESSLLI summer school in 2011.

For further information, please contact the project leader Stefano Borgo at Stefano.borgo@cnr.it