Ontology as Product-Service System: Lessons Learned from GO, BFO and DOLCE

In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Biomedical Ontology (ICBO), Buffalo, NY (2019)
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This paper defends a view of the Gene Ontology (GO) and of Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) as examples of what the manufacturing industry calls product-service systems. This means that they are products (the ontologies) bundled with a range of ontology services such as updates, training, help desk, and permanent identifiers. The paper argues that GO and BFO are contrasted in this respect with DOLCE, which approximates more closely to a scientific theory or a scientific publication. The paper provides a detailed overview of ontology services and concludes with a discussion of some implications of the product-service system approach for the understanding of the nature of applied ontology. Ontology developer communities are compared in this respect with developers of scientific theories and of standards (such as W3C). For each of these we can ask: what kinds of products do they develop and what kinds of services do they provide for the users of these products?

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo


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