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[ontac-forum] Approaching COSMO as a General (All Level) Ontology

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Cc: Roy Roebuck <Roy.Roebuck@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Roy Roebuck" <Roy.Roebuck@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 16:10:57 -0400
Message-id: <878871F15E22CF4FA0CCFDD27A763B2F03A9EF@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
At the Oct 5 meeting we used the terms "Upper Ontology", which from the comments I've read since then, are controversial and ambiguous. 
So, instead of seeking a single upper ontology corresponding to an individual or group's topical world-view, why not build a generalized ontology, orthogonal to all upper and lower ontologies/topics, that applies everywhere, to everything, at all levels of detail, based on the known physical aspects of the universe (time, energy, space, matter, etc.)? 
I'm not so well-versed in ontologies, linguistics, etc., only having an undergraduate degree in physics and a masters in systems management, with work almost totally in functional and organizational management and management analysis.  What I've sought to do, which seems to have led me into this realm of ontologies, semantics, taxonomies, etc., is to provide a means for anyone involved in a purposeful endeavor, i.e., an "enterprise", to ask and answer questions in a manner that would be understood by all others within the enterprise and/or its external environment.
As a preface to this idea, some definitions I use are:
  • Enterprise = a purposeful endeavor = a mission (regardless of number of participants, budget, physical dispersal, etc.)
  • Management = the resolution of complexity and diversity (e.g., chaos, As-Is state) in science, society, and perception into a system of controlled order (e.g., To-Be state).
  • Architecture = the orderly arrangement of the parts of a thing and the relations between those parts, and the attributes describing those parts and relationships = OMG MDA M0 level model
  • detailed model of a perceived thing = "the specification of a conceptualization" = Framework = world view = concept of operations (ConOps)  = OMG MDA M1 level model
  • General generalized model of types of things and their relationships, and their attributes, corresponding to the physical nature of the universe, applicable to all less-general MDA M2 level model
  • Generalized Object Model = a generalized model of relationships between things = OpenGroup and OMG Object Metaschema = MOF Metaschema = OMG MDA M3 level model
  • Architecture = an instance of an ontology
If you consider a person's world view to be the "architecture" of their specific knowledge of that world, and their understanding of the workings of that world to be their world-view's ontology, then each person's basic questions and answers about that world are built on the following words: who, what, where, when, why, how, etc., in whatever language they use.  Each of these words relate to combinations of the universe's above physical aspects.  Persons typically try to share their specific world-knowledge by conveying their world-view architecture, and convey their general world-knowledge by conveying their world-view ontology.
My mid-1980's experience in reorganizing and re-justifying the mission, functions, organizational structure, equipment, personnel, budget, etc. of a large military command (16000+ people, commanded by Army Major General, as a NATO tactical command), was my first significant work with ontologies.  I was the command's Management Officer, then Assistant Resource Manager. These duties grew to include IT and information/records, because I justified the first IT and networks for the command's peacetime activities.
I discovered in helping to ask and answer the questions needed to manage, improve, engineer, and justify the command that the basic questions usually showed up using their natural name (time, space, etc.) in forms and reports, or were more typically re-labeled as shown in the 7 categories below.
  1. Location = where = physical/geospatial, virtual  (network, phone, etc.), and conceptual (e.g., "western region")
  2. Organization = who is responsible for the mission = formal groups have an executives with legal/fiduciary responsibility
  3. Organization Unit = who performs the mission = staff offices, program offices, project offices, office roles, etc.
  4. Function = what work is done = executive, production, or support function with assignment of work responsibility/authority/performance-targets/budget and issuance of guidance = extended OMB FEA BRM
  5. Process = how work is done = process, procedure, information products (i.e., forms, reports), data flow, and transactional rules = extended OMB FEA SRM
  6. Resource = what goes into, comes out of, constrains, or performs the work = Input/Control/Output/Mechanism = people, funds, intelligence, skills, materiel, facilities, services, space, energy, time = extended OMB FEA DRM and TRM
  7. Requirement = resource quantities/qualities/schedule needed to perform a process of a function of an organization unit of an organization at a location = extended OMB FEA PRM
These seven sets of basic question categories form the root classes of the above generalized ontology.
When considering these seven categories/classes as a set, as is required to define and manage the life cycle of the individual and aggregate mission requirements, then the natural relations (e.g., "lines of sight") between these natural classes are:
  • Locations contain Organizations
  • Organization establish Organization Units
  • Organization Units are assigned Functions
  • Functions apply Processes
  • Processes Consume Resources as Input, Produce Resources as Output, Are Constrained by Resources as Controls, and Are Performed by Resources as Mechanisms, within a workflow/value-chain of transactions.
  • Requirements = Quantities, Qualities, and Schedule of Resources per Process step.
The generalized types of relations, also derived from the physical aspects of the universe are:
  1. Categorization (Inheritance taxonomy) as a class/subclass/instance inheritance structure such as the above 7 generalized classes
  2. Containment
  3. Sequence
  4. Change
  5. Variance
  6. Equivalence
  7. Reference
A generalized ontology can be provided, as a common reference for all narrower ontologies/world-views, using this 7 class by 7 relation-type set, as illustrated in the attached ontology/framework model.
When inventorying and categorizing an enterprise's vocabulary of nouns into these 7 general classes, and then generalizing each vocabulary-noun's relations to other nouns using one or more of these 7 general relation-types, then this general ontology can provide a common ontology providing the capabilities of integrating/unifying/merging/normalizing other ontologies as a "management backplane", among other uses such as data sharing, dynamic (vocabulary-based) communities, security/responsibility/permissions architecture, workforce/expertise development and management, rapid knowledge/awareness transference, etc.
Roy Roebuck
Senior Architect
CommIT Enterprises, Inc.

Attachment: GEM Framework Model and Methodology Flow.jpg
Description: GEM Framework Model and Methodology Flow.jpg

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