A method for re-engineering a thesaurus into an ontology

In Maureen Donnelly & Giancarlo Guizzardi (eds.), Formal Ontology and Information Systems. IOS. pp. 133-146 (2012)
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The construction of complex ontologies can be facilitated by adapting existing vocabularies. There is little clarity and in fact little consensus as to what modifications of vocabularies are necessary in order to re-engineer them into ontologies. In this paper we present a method that provides clear steps to follow when re-engineering a thesaurus. The method makes use of top-level ontologies and was derived from the structural differences between thesauri and ontologies as well as from best practices in modeling, some of which have been advocated in the biomedical domain. We illustrate each step of our method with examples from a re-engineering case study about agricultural fertilizers based on the AGROVOC thesaurus. Our method makes clear that re-engineering thesauri requires far more than just a syntactic conversion into a formal language or other easily automatable steps. The method can not only be used for re-engineering thesauri, but does also summarize steps for building ontologies in general, and can hence be adapted for the re-engineering of other types of vocabularies or terminologies.
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