Information Systems Laboratory


Category: european

Project Title: OntoWeb - Ontology-based information exchange for knowledge management and electronic commerce

Funding Organization: EU - IST

Coordinator: VU, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dieter Fensel

Duration: 01/06/2001 - 31/05/2004

Expiration Date: 31/5/2004

Total Budget: 1865799

FORTH ICS budget: 51600

Project Objective: 


Currently computers are changing from single isolated devices to entry points in a worldwide network of information exchange and business transactions. Therefore, support in data, information, and knowledge exchange becomes the key issue in current computer technology. Especially the Worldwide Web (WWW) has drastically changed the availability of electronically available information. This first generation of the World Wide Web has already changed our daily practice and these changes will become even more significant in the near future. However, the Web itself will have to change when it should reach the next level of service. Currently, the Web is an incredible large information source. The main burden in information access, extraction and interpretation is left to the human user. Tim Berners-Lee coined the vision of a Semantic Web that provides much more automated services based on machine processable semantics of data and heuristics that make use of these meta data.

Ontologies, that provide shared and common domain theories, will be a key asset for such a Semantic Web. They can be seen as meta data that explicitly represent semantics of data in machine processable way. Ontology-based reasoning services can operationalise this semantics for providing various services. By making explicit the link between the form and the content of information, ontologies help people and computers to access the information they need, end effectively communicate with each other. They have therefore a crucial role to enable content-based access, interoperability, and communication across the Web, providing it with a qualitatively new level of service: the Semantic Web. It weaves together a net linking incredible large parts of the human knowledge and complements it with machine processability. Various automated services will support the human user in achieving goals via accessing and providing information present in a machine-understandable form. This process will ultimately lead to a highly knowledgeable system with various specialized reasoning services that may support us in nearly all aspects of our daily life becoming as central as access to electric power. 

Research on ontology, that was rather confined to the philosophical sphere in the past, has now gained a specific role in research fields as diverse as knowledge representation, knowledge engineering, qualitative modelling, database design, information systems and database integration, natural language understanding, information retrieval and extraction, object-oriented software development, knowledge management and organization, agent-based systems development. Current applications areas are disparate, including electronic commerce, enterprise integration, digital libraries, medicine, biology, bioinformatics, geographic information systems, legal information systems. The key role of ontologies for content-based data interchange in these areas is testified by the interest shown by many international standardization bodies and initiatives, including ISO, ANSI, the W3C, IEEE, etc. 

The goal of the OntoWeb Network is to bring together researchers and industrials coming from the research and applications areas above, promoting interdisciplinary work and strengthening the European influence on Semantic Web standardisation efforts such as those based on RDF and XML. Europe"s cultural diversity and multi linguality, together with the strong scientific competences existing in the ontology field, may give Europe a unique opportunity to fully exploit ontology-based technology and to play a leading role in these emerging area.

The main long term goals of the network are: 

  • To stimulate and support the transfer of research on the Semantic Web from academia to industry; 
  • To stimulate the translation from industrial needs to technical and scientific problems; 
  • To represent and co-ordinate ontology-related research being carried out in different research areas, such as: Web Markup Languages, Knowledge Acquisition, Knowledge Engineering, Knowledge Representation, Information systems and database integration, Information Retrieval, Language Engineering, Digital Libraries, Software Agents, and Machine Learning; 
  • To disseminate information, research and application results about ontologies and related fields; 
  • To represent the European ontology community world wide and co-operating with related initiatives like DAML in the US; 
  • To enhance the training in ontology-related technologies at the European level; 
  • To distribute results and stimulate applications in all areas, with special emphasis on Web-based applications, electronic commerce, and information integration; 
  • To cooperate with content standardisation committees to promote the development of ontology-based standards and the harmonization/interoperability across different standards (with special emphasis on standards being developed for electronic commerce in the B2B area); 
  • To cooperate with language standardisation committees as the W3C to promote the development of standard languages for meta data (future versions of RDF and RDFS); 

Specific Goals of the Network are: 

  • Maintaining and extending an information service for scientists, practitioners and students. Electronically, information will be made available about scientific events and developments, courses, companies, and research institutions, material for research such as software and benchmarking problems. 
  • Producing an overview of current research and development activities and an outline of main technical and scientific issues to be addressed in the near future in the form of a technical roadmap. 
  • Demonstrating to industry how ontologies can be applied to particular problems in Knowledge Management, Electronic Commerce, and Enterprise Integration, and identifying problems in industry that can be addressed in scientific research. 
  • Improving the co-operation with related scientific fields such as Web standards, Knowledge Engineering, Knowledge Representation, Information systems and database integration, Information Retrieval, Language Engineering, Digital Libraries, Software Agents, and Machine Learning. 

To achieve these goals, committees will carry out specific tasks. The nature and scope of these activities will be defined by a project management board that will also monitor progress. The network will be open to institutes and companies that are active in the areas of the network and that are prepared to take part in network activities. 

The scientific community will benefit by a better overview of ongoing research and better access to resources such as documents, software, datasets, teaching
material. Industry will benefit by better access to available technology. 
Links: SIG1 on Content Standards"

Contact Person: Martin Doerr,

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