[tdwg-tag] Institutions are People if they own a Collection

Roger Hyam rogerhyam at mac.com
Sun Oct 18 17:21:17 CEST 2009

There is still an active debate on whether a Taxon (TaxonConcept) is a  
individual or a class (at least in my mind). From the OWL perspective  
it can't be both or it pushes us into OWL Full and possible  

Should we not do anything until we can settle this discussion  (it is  
at the heart of modelling our domain)  or should be simply agree that  
it may be modelled as either class or instance but that we still be  
defined it as existing?

I prefer the latter course. The 'correct' or optimal answer to the  
question depends on what the model if for and as that is incredibly  
vaguely specified it provides us with no  grounds for testing proposed  
solutions. We could discuss till the cows come home and no one would  
ever be right or wrong and we would never have a way of ascertaining  
when we got to the end of the discuss. Life, after all, is short.

On the specific example that Bob mentions I wonder why we need the  
property at all. The notion of ownership is not restricted to  
biodiversity informatics.

"A person or organization owning or managing rights over the resource."

Would probably do the job and be understood by every application that  
'understood' DC. Likewise a specimen is dc:isPartOf a collection (A  
related resource in which the described resource is physically or  
logically included.)

I am not aware of a way of suppressing assertions imported as part of  
an ontology. If I import TaxonConcepts that some one has helpfully  
tagged with dc:title assertions then they will be treated as instances  
by OWL not classes (classes aren't the subject or object of propeties  
only individuals are) unless I declare dc:title an OWL annotation  
property which will of course remove dc:title from all inference where  
it may be used elsewhere on real instances of things in my combined  
ontology. The only thing to do is to manually (or programmatically)  
remove all the offending triples on import. I'd like to know a better  
way of doing this.

But I should shut up as I am supposed to be on holiday.

All the best,


On 18 Oct 2009, at 15:38, Jonathan Rees wrote:

> On Sun, Oct 18, 2009 at 10:02 AM, Roger Hyam <rogerhyam at mac.com>  
> wrote:
>> Hi Bob,
>> This is why I believe we should not make assertions in the core
>> ontology about range and domain of properties.
>> If some one wants to import these notions (terms) then they are  
>> forced
>> to also import our (possibly flawed) world view.
>> If we were to create a perfect model of the reality of the
>> biodiversity informatics domain in OWL (or XML Schema or UML or
>> alphabetti spaghetti) due to Hyam's unoriginal law* it would be wrong
>> next week or certainly by the next TDWG meeting.
> There is a different view, adopted by many ontology projects: You do
> the best you can, and then if you find a mistake in the ontology, you
> fix it.
> Without guidance such as domain and range, you increase the
> probability that curation will be inconsistent across projects. And
> inconsistency makes data integration harder down the road, pushing
> work that ought to be done once, at curation time, off onto hapless
> consumers, each of whom has to do cleaning and normalization
> separately.
> The ontology is a significant point of leverage and it would be a
> shame not to use it.
> The OWL reasoners are really helpful at findings bugs like this one.
> Public review helps too, as we have just seen.
> If someone wants to ignore domain, range, subclass, etc. because
> they're afraid they contain mistakes, that's pretty easy to do. If
> someone wants to know how to use the ontology consistently with how
> others are using it, that's hard to do, if the information they need
> isn't in the ontology.
> Jonathan Rees
> Science Commons
>> This is why we should perhaps  have a list of terms (bound to URIs)
>> and a separate set of models that are used for particular occasions.
>> Ultimately the semantics of the data is governed by the query that is
>> being asked i.e. it is context sensitive. "Give that XYZ, what are  
>> the
>> ABC?"
>> * Hyam's unoriginal law states "The future is different - that is how
>> we tell it isn't the present."
>> Hope this helps,
>> Roger
>> On 17 Oct 2009, at 22:45, Bob Morris wrote:
>>> http://rs.tdwg.org/ontology/voc/Collection.rdf#hasOwner
>>> specifies two classes in its range: Person and Institution,
>>> The formal semantics of rdfs:range entails that the actual range of
>>> an object property is the intersection of the named rdfs:range
>>> classes.
>>> I believe this all entails that the only owner of a Collection is
>>> something that is both a Person and an Institution.
>>> Also, since these classes are not(?) defined as disjoint, the result
>>> is that any set of triples
>>>   Roger rdfs:type Person
>>>   C hasOwner Roger
>>> turns Roger into an Institution
>>> Likewise
>>>   Kew rdfs:type Institution
>>>   C hasOwner Kew
>>> turns Kew into a Person
>>> I could be wrong about all this, perhaps unless I too am an
>>> Institution, since, in my experience, Institutions rarely admit to
>>> being wrong. (Uh, oh, better not go there... :-)  )
>>> Bob Morris
>>> p.s.
>>> This also suggests that the stylesheet human.xsl is somewhat
>>> recalcitrant, since the html rendering of
>>> http://rs.tdwg.org/ontology/voc/Collection.rdf only sees Institution
>>> as the range of hasOwner
>>> --
>>> Robert A. Morris
>>> Professor of Computer Science (nominally retired)
>>> UMASS-Boston
>>> 100 Morrissey Blvd
>>> Boston, MA 02125-3390
>>> Associate, Harvard University Herberia
>>> email: ram at cs.umb.edu
>>> web: http://bdei.cs.umb.edu/
>>> web: http://etaxonomy.org/FilteredPush
>>> http://www.cs.umb.edu/~ram
>>> phone (+1)617 287 6466
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> tdwg-tag mailing list
>>> tdwg-tag at lists.tdwg.org
>>> http://lists.tdwg.org/mailman/listinfo/tdwg-tag
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