Two UCT computer science academics, Associate Professor Maria Keet and Dr. Zola Mahlaza, Dr. Zubeida Khan (senior researcher at the CSIR and a UCT Computer Science PhD graduate), and PhD student César Bernabé (with Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands) earned a Distinguished Paper Award at the 13th International Conference on Formal Ontology in Information Systems 2023 (FOIS 2023), the premier conference on applied ontology, which was held from 17 to 20 July, 2023, in Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada.
The award-winning paper, entitled “A method to improve alignments between domain and foundational ontologies”, proposes a new method to link ontologies from a particular subject domain, with terms about, e.g., biomedical investigations or infectious diseases and the relations that hold between them, to foundational ontologies that provide high-level general categories for structuring knowledge.
The work builds upon preliminary steps made by two computer science Masters students, Chiadika Emeruem and Steve Wang, who were enrolled in Keet’s Ontology Engineering course and her Digital Open Textbook for Development (DOT4D) grant from CHED for the award-winning textbook, with the aim to assist students in learning the material. Subsequent investigation showed that also practitioners struggle with linking the structured representation of their domain knowledge to such perceived to be ‘esoteric’-sounding entities like “generically dependent continuant”, “process profile”, and “two-dimensional continuant fiat boundary”. The main question then became what not just a procedure for one foundational ontology would look like, but a good one whose approach would be reusable for other foundational ontologies as well. The answer to that was presented in the award-winning paper. An informal overview of the paper is available online on Keet’s blog. The conference proceedings papers are in print with IOS Press as part of its Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications series, like the previous FOIS conference editions.
As one of the two main authors of the paper, Maria Keet presented the work at the conference, which was made possible in part by the invitation as facilitator (lecturer) at the Interdisciplinary School on Applied Ontology 2023 that was held the week before the conference.