Ontology work and what it is needed for
Terminology work, in its most traditional form, aims to make communication more effective between humans. Ontology work, in turn, aims to present data about concepts in a way that allows even computers to make use of it. The objective of ontology work is to create and maintain ontologies in which information on the concepts of a special field of knowledge is presented in a format that supports machine reasoning.
Ontologies are based on concepts and concept relations, so concept analysis – known as an essential tool in terminology work – serves ontology work as well. Concept analysis helps both in identifying conceptual information and presenting it. Ontologies, especially those based on thesauri, can be used to facilitate data description and data searching and to support a variety of semantic web applications.
Ontology work is about describing concepts. In ontology work, especially if the work is based on a thesaurus, concepts are often described by identifying the generic, partitive and associative relations between the concepts. Additionally, more specific concept relations may be used, and it is also possible to enrich an ontology with concept descriptions in text format for human users. This kind of descriptions, namely definitions and notes, are typical of terminology work as well.
In the same manner as terminology work, ontology work can be organised in the form of a project in which subject field specialists and specialists in concept analysis work together. Organising the work in this way, and sharing the tasks between subject field specialists and terminologists, allows the subject field specialists to focus on questions within their expertise and makes the work efficient.
The Finnish Terminology Centre has gained experience in ontology work by taking part in creating and developing the General Finnish Ontology and several specialised ontologies (see the Finto service).