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4. The methodological framework

Until now, few domain-independent methodological approaches have been reported for building ontologies. Most of these are mainly overall lifecycle models providing a more generic framework for the ontology creation process, but giving little support for the actual task of building the ontology. A comparative study of ontology building methodologies from scratch can be found in (Fernandez 1999). The METHONTOLOGY methodology, as described in (Fernandez et al. 1998) fits our project approach best, since it proposes an evolving prototyping life cycle composed of development oriented activities (requirements specification, conceptualization of domain knowledge, formalization of the conceptual model in a formal language, implementation of the formal model and maintenance of implemented ontologies), support oriented activities (knowledge acquisition, documentation, evaluation, integration of other ontologies) and project management activities. Since this has been done elsewhere, the framework presented in this paper will not propose another life cycle model. Rather, it will depict the development oriented activities within the above methodology and provide a more specific methodology for this part. More specific methodologies, especially for supporting the creation process sparsely exist so far. (Guarino et al.) provide a set of methodologies for ontology-driven conceptual analysis. An overview of these methodologies can be accessed through his web site. The methodology presented here focuses on the actual acquisition and development part of the ontology and describes a comprehensive, reusable and semi automatically-supported framework, which can be embedded in other lifecycle models. Figure 3 shows a graphical overview of the overall framework.

The domain ontology is built using two different knowledge acquisition approaches, which will be described in detail in the following sections. The top of the picture describes these two paths. In the lower part of the picture the cyclic evolvement of the domain ontology to be built is shown. The grey dashed arrows show how outputs of certain processes steps are used as inputs of other steps. Section 5, where the application of this framework to the biosecurity prototype is presented, will present each single process step and its application to the prototype project.

Figure 3: Comprehensive framework for creation of domain ontologies

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