5th Agricultural Ontology Service (AOS) Workshop 2004

1. Overview of the Workshop

The 5th AOS workshop was organized by the Scientech Documentation and Information Center of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SDIC/CAAS), China and the Library and Documentation Systems Division of FAO.  The focus of the workshop was on sharing new developments in the field of metadata and ontology and finding out how to leverage these developments in practice in agricultural information management.

The workshop brought together metadata and ontology experts and researchers interested in the AOS project. The fifth AOS Workshop built on the successes of previous workshops held in Rome, Oxford, Florida, and Copenhagen. It also provided an opportunity for information management specialists in Asia to learn about the AOS and to strengthen partnerships in building the AOS. Around fifty participants attended the workshop. Most of the attendees were librarians, information managers, and subject specialists within agriculture and development from the Asian countries. The workshop consisted of opening speeches, tutorials, presentations, and a final wrap-up discussion

2. Opening Speeches

The opening plenary was gave an overview of the works undertaken the area of agricultural information management in China.  Dr. Xu Shiwei, the Director-General of SDIC/CAAS gave an overview of CAAS’s activities. Mr. Xu Ji, the FAO Deputy representative in Beijing informed us about the projects undertaken by FAO, such as, the Agricultural Information Systems (AIS) initiative in rural areas.

3. Report from the tutorials and sessions

Tutorial 1: Ontologies - What are they all about?

The purpose of this tutorial was to introduce to attendees the topic of ontology and its development cycle.  The other topics covered were:

  • Origins of Ontology
  • Definitions of Ontology
  • Ontology representation languages
  • Examples of ontologies
  • Benefits of ontologies
  • Application areas of ontologies
  • Types of ontologies
  • Similarities and Differences between Ontologies and Thesauri

Tutorial 2: Ontology Tools

This tutorial was designed to give participants hands-on training on modelling with tools such as KAON and Protégé.  The topics covered during the tutorial were:

  • Introduction to currently available "most popular" tools.
  • Guided tour through KAON
  • Introduction to the concept of logical URIs
  • Creating concepts and relationships among concepts
  • Creating a lexicon
  • Creating instances
  • Introduction to meta-modelling

The rest of the workshop was divided into four specific sessions.

Session 1: From Thesauri to Ontologies

The presentations in this session focused on the migration of thesauri to ontologies. The presentations talked about the basic structural differences between the two and the possible procedures that could be applied to convert a thesauri to an ontology.  The rules-as-you go approach was presented as a possible methodology to help the process of transformation. The group discussed the limitations of the existing term-to-term relationships in thesauri and how these relationships can be improved by adding semantic knowledge.

Session 2: Automatic translation using semantic knowledge

The presentations in this session covered the role of domain-ontologies in multilingual environment. A Phrase-Based T2E Active Reading System was explained in detail. The presentations also covered the impact of standardized terminologies and domain ontologies in multilingual information processing from the perspective of natural language processing.

Session 3: Metadata schemas

Ontologies provide formalized semantics of objects and their relations to each other and metadata schemas and ontologies are very closely related. The Chinese ontology based metadata model which applies the Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records (FRBR) was explained in detail.  Pedro, a tool to create data entry form based on a data model written as XML Schema.

Session 4: Use of semantics to enhance access to domain knowledge

This session showed illustrations of applications and application prototypes that exploit semantic information encoded in such resources as documents, thesauri, and ontologies. The objective of  this session was also to provide concrete examples and methodologies that can eventually be extended to the development of live applications used in and for information management. The presentations included demonstration of  application which uses description logics as databases for structuring agricultural information systems.

4. Discussion

The group discussed the need for new tools that will facilitate maintenance of AGROVOC and its conversion to an ontology. The general understanding was that ontology creation is a time consuming process and that it is not  possible for a single organization to do it all the work on its own. For this reason, the need for collaborative efforts was stressed.  There was a consensus on the need for speedy update of AGROVOC. Some of the participants who are using the thesaurus expressed that some cleaning of the relationships needs to be done in its current version.

The participants expressed that these workshops should be an annual event and needs institutionalization. The objective of these workshops should change from raising awareness to a more scientific and technical environment.  The workshops could take place to other Agricultural Conferences and Seminars.  Additionally, these workshops should have slots wherein participants have chance to have discussions on bilateral or multilateral collaborations.

The Agricultural standards clearinghouse should facilitate coordination between different bodies that might be interested in creating ontologies in similar domains. The AOS should act as a clearinghouse for ontology creation and management, providing users with a tool that allows them to add metadata about their ontologies, in other words, provide an knowledge organization Systems registry that provides an collective view to the users.  The clearinghouse should also provide adequate guidance on standards, methodologies and tools for KOS creation and maintenance.

5. Conclusion

Overall the workshop has achieved its goal. The participants said that the workshop enabled them to enhance their understanding of ontologies.  Participants were impressed by some of the applications that demonstrated the power of ontologies.  The need for users, domain experts and ontology engineers to work together in close collaboration was also acknowledged. The next steps in creation or development of ontologies should take into account the existing knowledge structures already available

Presentations of the fifth AOS Workshop 2004: