The Scholarly Ontology Project
Presentation at the NKOS Workshop, ACM DLí00, San Antonio, June 7, 2000

Simon Buckingham Shum
The Open University

Knowledge intensive communities, such as academic and corporate researchers, are increasingly using networks to publish documents, but at present receive little support in searching, tracking, interpreting or analyzing this ocean of information from different perspectives. In contrast to metadata/ontologies for describing primary attributes of documents/resources (the current focus of most efforts, in which strong personal interpretations and inconsistencies in encoding are undesirable), we are working on ontologies and web support tools capable of expressing interpretations and multiple perspectives about the significance of documents. Within research literatures (which we model as a semantic web) inconsistencies and conflicting views are the very stuff of scholarly discourse, but scholars receive no computational support for querying or visualizing this context in which documents are embedded. In this talk I'll describe the design rationale and implementation of ScholOnto (for Scholarly Ontologies), an ontology-based, digital library Web server to support certain forms of scholarly interpretation and discourse. Depending on your standpoint, it might also be thought of as an e-print server with a semantic layer, or a Web-scale hypertext argumentation system. It will enable researchers to submit a structured summary of the contributions they claim a document makes, plus key relationships to the literature. All claims are of course open to contest. A key issue, as with any knowledge management system, will be the cost/benefit tradeoff that we offer to prospective user communities, bearing in mind the lessons from pre-Web hypertext and CSCW research into usability issues associated with knowledge formalization. I will present our arguments as to why we think ScholOnto could succeed where earlier systems have foundered. Your feedback on this project, still in its early stages, is valued.

Details of the Scholarly Ontologies Project are on our project page: †