Ontology engineering is the art, craft, and science of methodically constructing ontologies. In OWL terms, ontologies are computational artifacts similar to grammars, programs, or UML diagrams. Just as quite a bit of (successful!) software is constructed in an ad hoc manner, so too are many (successful!) ontologies. The goal of ontology engineering research is to understand how people build ontologies, determine ways to produce better ontologies for less effort, and to develop better support services for ontology engineers.
Ontology engineering research can be read as a broad umbrella term which encompasses nearly everything we do (e.g., does determining the decidability of an extension to OWL count?). We tend to use it more narrowly to refer to the study of the human aspects of building an ontology. For example, justification finding services are intrinsically interesting, are computationally challenging, and can be used for a variety of tasks (e.g., incremental reasoning). None of these issues are ontology engineering issues per se. How to use justifications to debug unsatisfiable classes is a core ontology engineering question.
In recent years, we’ve been heavily focused on applying empirical methods to ontology engineering, e.g., experiments, surveys, and the like.
Some representative publications (and not just ours):
- A Survey of the Web Ontology Landscape; tried to determine what sort of features we in active use in naturally occurring ontologies.
- Repairing Unsatisfiable Concepts in OWL Ontologies; contains a user based experiment to determine the suitability of an ontology repair tool and technique