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Ontology Summit 2018

The Ontology Summit is an annual series of events that involves the ontology community and communities related to each year's theme chosen for the summit. The Ontology Summit was started by Ontolog and NIST, and the program has been co-organized by Ontolog, NIST, NCOR, NCBO, IAOA, NCO_NITRD along with the co-sponsorship of other organizations that are supportive of the Summit goals and objectives.

The final version of the Communiqué is now available here.


The Summit theme this year is Contexts in Context.

In general, a context is defined to be the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be better understood and assessed. Thus for utterance statements we often talk of the linguistic context of what is being expressed. In addition there may be a physical context, circumstance or state of affairs in the real world that provides context for uttered statements. Some examples of synonyms or alternate terms that have the flavor of context then include circumstances, conditions, factors, state of affairs, situation, background, scene, setting, and frame(s) of reference. We may speak of physical situations as the context for events and ontologies do model the concept of "situation" as participating objects and processes as located in time and space See Ontology Engineering with Ontology Design Patterns: Foundations and Applications, 2016 Eds P. Hitzler, A. Gangemi, K. Janowicz. Clearly there are many understandings of "context" in general, and also how it relates to ontologies and its aspects in particular. On the face of it context may apply to ontologies and its stated axioms. One may think of the meaning of an axiom in isolation like a sentence or more broadly as part of a related dialog in which sentences are embedded. An ontology attempts to specify a meaning. But ontologies have a framed scope with entities and relations within its scope. This provides an internal contextual meaning within a scope or a framed scope. Depending on the depth of the ontology engineering not all relevant terms and associated concepts may be included and there may be relations not expressed. As long ago as 1998 Nicola Guarino made observed this in his Formal Ontology and Information Systems. Sometimes targeted concepts cannot be easily expressed in axioms or encoded in a target language. Indeed some of conceptual understanding may only be expressed in associated documentation. In addition the knowledge inside a domain mind cannot be publicly observed, so as Hayes observes in Contexts In Context "there are many ideas about what its structure might be." Thus some concepts not included may provide some background for the ideas in a particular ontology. In a keynote at CogSIMA 2012 conference Patrick Hayes said a bit more “Everyone agrees that meaning depends on context, but not everyone agrees what context is”. He continues that “… any theory of meaning will focus on some of the things that influence it, and whatever is left over gets to be called the “context” … so the “context” gets to be a trash-can term. It means all the rest, whatever that is.” The summit this year will survey various manifestations of the context idea and particularly how an understanding of these and their uses affects ontology development, use and maintenance. A goal is to identify some of the major research problems, such as the precision with which context should be specified, that must be solved so that an ontological approach to contexts is understood. Based on this understanding we hope that contexts can be incorporated into ontological engineering practices to achieve richer ontologies. A preliminary view of contexts provides several perspectives to investigate.

  • In the agent world, the closest approximation to context is the circumstances of a BDI (Belief, Desire, Intent) agent. These can primarily be expressed using modal operators See for example BDI logics for BDI architectures:old problems, new perspectives
  • Other examples of context include
    • Speech act theory
    • Situation semantics
    • Kamp/Heim Discourse Representation Theory (DRT)/file-change semantics
    • Dynamic semantics
  • There are several ways to represent contexts within a logical framework, including:
    • Languages such as IKL (IKRIS) have a context logic built into them.
    • Hybrid logic can also be used to specify contexts.
  • John Sowa describes Context as:

The context needed to understand any text or discourse may include information of any kind, general or specific. For this reason, any reasoning about context is at a metalevel: it's not about the current subject matter, but about the methods for finding some implicit information that should be added to the subject.

That information can come from several sources. The immediate context includes the sentences that precede or follow the current sentence. The background knowledge includes information about the subject matter that is assumed by the speaker or author. The situation includes the time, place, and audience or readers. All these sources of information may change at different points in a document or discourse.


As part of Ontolog’s general advocacy to bring ontology science and engineering into the mainstream, we endeavor to abstract a conversational toolkit from the sessions that may facilitate discussion and knowledge sharing amongst stakeholders relevant to the topic. Our findings will be supported with examples from the various domains of interest. The results will be captured in the form of a 2018 Summit Communiqué, with expanded supporting material provided on the web.

Process and Deliverables

Similar to our last twelve summits, this Ontology Summit will consist of three months of virtual discourse (over our archived mailing lists) and virtual panel sessions (over augmented conference calls), and may culminate in a 2-day face-to-face Symposium on 30 April and 1 May 2018, during which we, among other things, present our distilled thoughts in a collaboratively developed Communiqué.

The Communiqué draft will be based on OntologySummit2018/Synthesis.

Structure and Discourse

Meeting Days and Times

  • All meetings will by default be on Wednesdays and start at Noon Eastern Time.
    • 9:00am Pacific Time
    • 5:00pm in the UK (except for 01 November, 14 March and 21 March which are at 4:00pm)
    • 6:00pm in Continental Europe (except for 01 November, 14 March and 21 March which are at 5:00pm)
  • Meetings will last for approximately 1.5 hours.

Planning Session Meeting Schedule

Main Summit Meeting Schedule

1/17IntroductionJohn Sowa
1/24Domain specific needs for context1David Whitten and Ravi Sharma
1/31Domain specific needs for context2David Whitten and Ravi Sharma
2/7Upper ontologies for specifying context1Mike Bennett and David Whitten
2/14Contexts in the Open Knowledge Network1Ram D. Sriram and Gary Berg-Cross
2/21Contexts for Integration and Interoperability 1Cory Casanave and Ravi Sharma
2/28Synthesis Session1
3/7Harmonizing diverse conceptualizations in multi-context systems engineering3Janet Singer and Jack Ring
3/14Upper ontologies for specifying context2Mike Bennett and David Whitten
3/21Contexts for Integration and Interoperability 2Cory Casanave and Ravi Sharma
3/28Contexts in the Open Knowledge Network2Ram D. Sriram and Gary Berg-Cross
4/4Synthesis Session2
4/11Communique Session1
4/18Communique Session2
4/25Communique Session3
4/30 and 5/1Symposium

Blog Pages

Track BlogChampions
Domain Specific NeedsDavid Whitten and Ravi Sharma
Upper OntologiesMike Bennett and David Whitten
Open Knowledge NetworkRam D. Sriram and Gary Berg-Cross
Integration and InteroperabilityCory Casanave assisted by Ravi Sharma
Systems EngineeringJanet Singer and Jack Ring
Representation of ContextCory Casanave

Resource Pages

Synthesis Page

The Communiqué will be based on OntologySummit2018/Synthesis

Meeting Call and Connection Info

Conference call URL is:

  • If you have not used BlueJeans before, then connect to the URL above before the meeting time so that the required plug-in can be installed.


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