The Universal Ontology: A Vision for Conceptual Modeling and the Semantic Web (Invited Paper)

  • Antoni OlivéEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10650)


This paper puts forward a vision of a universal ontology (UO) aiming at solving, or at least greatly alleviating, the semantic integration problem in the field of conceptual modeling and the understandability problem in the field of the semantic web. So far it has been assumed that the UO is not feasible in practice, but we think that it is time to revisit that assumption in the light of the current state-of-the-art. This paper aims to be a step in this direction. We try to make an initial proposal of a feasible UO. We present the scope of the UO, the kinds of its concepts, and the elements that could comprise the specification of each concept. We propose a modular structure for the UO consisting of four levels. We argue that the UO needs a complete set of concept composition operators, and we sketch three of them. We also tackle a few issues related to the feasibility of the UO, which we think that they could be surmountable. Finally, we discuss the desirability of the UO, and we explain why we conjecture that there are already organizations that have the knowledge and resources needed to develop it, and that might have an interest in its development in the near future.


Conceptual modeling Semantic web Conceptual schemas Ontologies Universal ontology 



The author is greatly indebted to his colleagues Albert Abelló, Jordi Cabot, Ernest Teniente, and Toni Urpí for their comments to earlier drafts of this paper. This work has been partially supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, under project TIN2014-52938-C2-2-R.


  1. 1.
    Batini, C., Ceri, S., Navathe, S.: Conceptual Database Design: An Entity-Relationship Approach. Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company Inc., Redwood City (1992)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Doan, A., Halevy, A., Ives, Z.: Principles of Data Integration. Morgan Kaufmann, Burlington (2012)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    van Harmelen, F.: Ontology mapping: a way out of the medical tower of babel? In: Miksch, S., Hunter, J., Keravnou, E.T. (eds.) AIME 2005. LNCS, vol. 3581, pp. 3–6. Springer, Heidelberg (2005). doi: 10.1007/11527770_1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Heath, T., Bizer, C.: Linked Data: Evolving the Web into a Global Data Space. Synthesis Lectures on the Semantic Web: Theory and Technology, 1st edn., vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1–136. Morgan & Claypool (2011)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Park, J., Ram, S.: Information systems interoperability: what lies beneath? ACM Trans. Inf. Syst. 22(4), 595–632 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Uschold, M., Grüninger, M.: Ontologies and semantics for seamless connectivity. SIGMOD Rec. 33(4), 58–64 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Pease, A., Niles, I., Li, J.: The suggested upper merged ontology: a large ontology for the semantic web. In: Proceedings of AAAI-2002 Workshop on Ontologies and the Semantic Web (2002)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Allemang, D., Hendler, J.A.: Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist - Effective Modeling in RDFS and OWL, 2nd edn. Morgan Kaufmann, Burlington (2011)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Yu, L.: A Developer’s Guide to the Semantic Web. Springer, Heidelberg (2014). doi: 10.1007/978-3-662-43796-4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gruninger, M., Fox, M.S.: Methodology for the design and evaluation of ontologies. In: Proceedings of Workshop on Basic Ontological Issues in Knowledge Sharing, IJCAI 1995 (1995)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Noy, N.F., McGuinness, D.L.: Ontology Development 101: A Guide to Creating Your First Ontology. Stanford University (2001)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Olivé, A.: Conceptual Modeling of Information Systems. Springer, Berlin (2007). doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-39390-0CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Uschold, M.: Creating, integrating and maintaining local and global ontologies. In: Proceedings of First Workshop on Ontology Learning OL 2000 in Conjunction with the 14th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence ECAI 2000 (2000)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Aguilera, D., Gómez, C., Olivé, A.: A complete set of guidelines for naming UML conceptual schema elements. Data Knowl. Eng. 88, 60–74 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Spaccapietra, S. (coordinator): Report on Modularization of Ontologies. Technical report, Knowledge Web Deliverable D2.1.3.1 (2005)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Roussey, C., Pinet, F., Kang, M.A., Corcho, O.: An introduction to ontologies and ontology engineering. In: Falquet, G., et al. (eds.) Ontologies in Urban Development Projects. Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing, vol. 1, pp. 9–38. Springer, London (2011). doi: 10.1007/978-0-85729-724-2_2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Mylopoulos, J., Borgida, A., Jarke, M., Koubarakis, M.: Telos: representing knowledge about information systems. ACM Trans. Inf. Syst. 8(4), 325–362 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    de Carvalho, V.A., Almeida, J.P.A., Fonseca, C.M., Guizzardi, G.: Multi-level ontology-based conceptual modeling. Data Knowl. Eng. 109, 3–24 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Brickley, D., Guha, R.V.: RDF Schema 1.1. W3C Recommendation (2014).
  20. 20.
    Masolo, C., Borgo, S., Gangemi, A., Guarino, N., Oltramari, A.: WonderWeb Deliverable D18, Ontology Library (final). ICT Project (2003)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Pastor, O.: Conceptual modeling of life: beyond the homo sapiens. In: Comyn-Wattiau, I., Tanaka, K., Song, I.-Y., Yamamoto, S., Saeki, M. (eds.) ER 2016. LNCS, vol. 9974, pp. 18–31. Springer, Cham (2016). doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-46397-1_2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gangemi, A., Guarino, N., Masolo, C., Oltramari, A.: Sweetening WORDNET with DOLCE. AI Mag. 24(3), 13–24 (2003)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Guizzardi, G., Wagner, G., de Almeida Falbo, R., Guizzardi, R.S.S., Almeida, J.P.A.: Towards ontological foundations for the conceptual modeling of events. In: Ng, W., Storey, V.C., Trujillo, J.C. (eds.) ER 2013. LNCS, vol. 8217, pp. 327–341. Springer, Heidelberg (2013). doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-41924-9_27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Guizzardi, G., Wagner, G., Almeida, J.P.A., Guizzardi, R.S.: Towards ontological foundations for conceptual modeling: the unified foundational ontology (UFO) story. Appl. Ontol. 10(3–4), 259–271 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Bergenholtz, H., Tarp, S. (eds.): Manual of Specialised Lexicography. The Preparation of Specialised Dictionaries. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam (1995)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Singh, R.A.: An introduction to lexicography. Central Institute of Indian Languages (1982)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Fellbaum, C. (ed.): WordNet: An Electronic Lexical Database. MIT Press, Cambridge (1998)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Lenat, D.B.: CYC: a large-scale investment in knowledge infrastructure. Commun. ACM 38(11), 32–38 (1995)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Navigli, R., Ponzetto, S.P.: BabelNet: the automatic construction, evaluation and application of a wide-coverage multilingual semantic network. Artif. Intell. 193, 217–250 (2012)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
  31. 31.
    Shvaiko, P., Euzenat, J.: Ontology matching: state of the art and future challenges. IEEE Trans. Knowl. Data Eng. 25(1), 158–176 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Lindland, O.I., Sindre, G., Sølvberg, A.: Understanding quality in conceptual modeling. IEEE Softw. 11, 42–49 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Gómez-Pérez, A.: Evaluation of ontologies. Int. J. Intell. Syst. 16(3), 391–409 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Noy, N.F.: Ontology mapping. In: Handbook on Ontologies, pp. 573–590 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Choi, N., Han, H., Song, I.: A survey on ontology mapping. SIGMOD Rec. 35, 34–41 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Arnold, P., Rahm, E.: Enriching ontology mappings with semantic relations. Data Knowl. Eng. 93, 1–18 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    SNOMED International. SNOMED CT Starter Guide (2017).
  38. 38.
    Lieber, R., Stekauer, P. (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Compounding. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2011)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Murphy, G.L.: The Big Book of Concepts. MIT Press, Cambridge (2004)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
  41. 41.
    Nakov, P., Hearst, M.A.: Semantic interpretation of noun compounds using verbal and other paraphrases. TSLP 10(3), 13:1–13:51 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
  43. 43.
    Cabot, J., Mazón, J.-N., Pardillo, J., Trujillo, J.: Specifying aggregation functions in multidimensional models with OCL. In: ER 2010, pp. 419–432 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Madnick, S.E.: Are we moving toward an information superhighway or a tower of babel? The challenge of large-scale semantic heterogeneity. In: ICDE 1996, pp. 2–8 (1996)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Noy, N.F.: Semantic integration: a survey of ontology-based approaches. SIGMOD Rec. 33(4), 65–70 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Berners-Lee, T., Kagal, L.: The fractal nature of the semantic web. AI Mag. 29(3), 29–34 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Herman, I.: State of the Semantic Web. Norway (2007).
  48. 48.
    Mockus, A., Fielding, R.T., Herbsleb, J.D.: Two case studies of open source software development: apache and Mozilla. ACM Trans. Softw. Eng. Methodol. 11(3), 309–346 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Guha, R.V., Brickley, D., Macbeth, S.: evolution of structured data on the web. Comm. ACM 59(2), 44–51 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Burton-Jones, A., Wand, Y., Weber, R.: Guidelines for empirical evaluations of conceptual modeling grammars. J. AIS 10, 1 (2009)Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Conesa, J., Storey, V.C., Sugumaran, V.: Usability of upper level ontologies: the case of ResearchCyc. Data Knowl. Eng. 69(4), 343–356 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Kashyap, V., Bussler, C., Moran, M.: The Semantic Web. Semantics for Data and Services on the Web. Springer, Heidelberg (2008). doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-76452-6CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Mika, P.: On and why it matters for the web. IEEE Internet Comput. 19(4), 52–55 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Ding, L., Kolari, P., Ding, Z., Avancha, S., Finin, T., Anupam Joshi, A.: Using ontologies in the semantic web: a survey. In: Sharman, R., Kishore, R., Ramesh, R. (eds.) Ontologies. Springer, Boston (2007). doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-37022-4_4CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Service and Information System EngineeringUniversitat Politècnica de Catalunya – Barcelona TechBarcelonaCatalonia

Personalised recommendations