Ontological Foundations for Geographic Information Science

In Robert McMaster & E. Lynn Usery (eds.), A Research Agenda for Geographic Information Science. CRC Press. pp. 335-350 (2004)
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We propose as a UCGIS research priority the topic of “Ontological Foundations for Geographic Information.” Under this umbrella we unify several interrelated research subfields, each of which deals with different perspectives on geospatial ontologies and their roles in geographic information science. While each of these subfields could be addressed separately, we believe it is important to address ontological research in a unitary, systematic fashion, embracing conceptual issues concerning what would be required to establish an exhaustive ontology of the geospatial domain, issues relating to the choice of appropriate methods for formalizing ontologies, and considerations regarding the design of ontology-driven information systems. This integrated approach is necessary, because there is a strong dependency between the methods used to specify an ontology, and the conceptual richness, robustness and tractability of the ontology itself. Likewise, information system implementations are needed as testbeds of the usefulness of every aspect of an exhaustive ontology of the geospatial domain. None of the current UCGIS research priorities provides such an integrative perspective, and therefore the topic of “Ontological Foundations for Geographic Information Science” is unique.

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo


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