Collaborative Conceptual Exploration as a Tool for Crowdsourcing Domain Ontologies
Domain ontologies are essential in disciplines as diverse as software engineering, medicine, or political science to name just a few. This paper describes an ongoing effort to develop a methodology for collaborative ontology construction by geographically spread communities of experts and implement a web-based prototype supporting this methodology. A distinctive feature of the proposed approach is the use of conceptual exploration techniques, which make it possible to organize the process of ontology construction by automatically identifying and explicitly highlighting issues that remain to be addressed. Given a set of objects (facts, situations, etc.) of a subject domain, which is known to have considerably more such objects, and their unified descriptions in terms of presence or absence of certain attributes, a conceptual exploration system maintains a compact representation of implications behind the currently built ontology and offers them for experts to accept or falsify by entering new objects or extending the description language with new attributes. Upon termination, exploration results in identification of a (relatively small) representative part of the domain from which a conceptual hierarchy of the entire domain can be automatically constructed. We consider theoretic, algorithmic, representational, and pragmatic issues of transforming the exploration methods into a toolset useful for domain experts.