The second in a series of ‘deep dive’ webinars on TopBraid Enterprise Vocabulary Net (EVN) featured a short presentation and demo of some key capabilities for collaborative ontology management provided by TopBraid EVN 5.1.

Many people have experienced EVN’s taxonomy management capabilities. Fewer are aware that EVN also includes a fully featured ontology editor – which was the focus of this webinar. As a demo example, we have used FIBO – a Financial Industry Business Ontology developed by the EDM Council. FIBO can be browsed here.

The webinar was very well attended with people coming from industries as varied as financial services, healthcare, publishing, and manufacturing. A 33-minute recording and slides from the webinar are now available.

During the webinar attendees submitted several interesting questions. We were only able to partially answer a few of them during the webinar, so we are providing the questions submitted with answers here.

Q: How do you handle updates/changes from imported ontologies that you incorporate or enrich with your own objects etc?

Imported ontologies are not physically imported, they are included by reference. With this approach, you have at least two models e.g., FIBO as released by the EDM Council (“FIBO EDM”) and your own extensions to FIBO (in our example it was “FIBO Demo”) that includes FIBO EDM.

When there is a new version of FIBO EDM, it replaces the previously available version. This doesn’t impact “FIBO Demo” other than when working with it you will now see updates from the EDM Council. For example, if you have added a description field for the class “contract” and, subsequently, EDM Council modified their description of “contract”, you will now see their new description, but your description is still there. In theory, it is possible that your added description no longer make sense given their change to the description. In practice, we expect that new releases will be primarily about further extensions to FIBO – covering additional areas or drilling into more details, not changing the meaning of the previously released concepts. To review and assess differences, EVN lets you run comparison reports and various queries – as needed. Additionally, most standard organizations typically provide summaries of changes when they do a new release. For example, ISO does this for country codes.

Q: What happens to existing instance data when constraints are added our updated?

EVN will not automatically change or remove your data. When a new constraint has been added and a user wants to see how it impacted his existing data, he can run a constraint violation report that will check data against all applicable constraints and report the results.

Q: Where can I find ontologies like SNOWMED, FIBO?

FIBO is available from the Enterprise Data Management (EDM) Council’s website. It is also shipped as an example with TopBraid Composer.

Q: What happens to data added in EVN when FIBO is updated and imported again?

FIBO is included by reference. When it is updated, your added information is not impacted.

Q: Examples of specific uses of FIBO by banking industry?

This question is best addressed to the EDM Council – they are actively working with early adopters. In April, there will be FIBO conference as part of Enterprise Data World 2016. Several financial services firms will be talking about their use of FIBO.

Q: 1. What are the uses of FIBO ? 2. What are the other tools it is embedded in ? 3. Isn’t it too rich and complete for a search engine (attributes…) ? 4. What is the status of FIBO (reuse…) ? Does it necessarily come with EVN?

Questions about the status of FIBO, what other tools embedded it, etc. are best addressed to the EDM Council. Also, see information above on FIBO conference track at EDW where these topics will be discussed. To clarify, FIBO doesn’t come with EVN server installation – not all our users would want to use it. It is included as one of “samples” with TopBraid Composer Maestro Edition (TBC-ME). For demo purposes, TBC-ME bundles a stand-alone single user versions of our web applications including TopBraid EVN. If desired, one could upload this “sample” to the EVN server.

Q: In EVN’s ontology governance model, is there a mechanism to route-and-review comments and edits, as well as to track and approve changes?

Although we didn’t demo this, many customers use “working copies” for their changes. Instead of making changes directly to a production copy, a working copy is created that represents a sandbox of changes. After all changes are done, a working copy can be frozen for review. A status change to a working copy is one of notification events that stakeholders can be informed about. Changes can then be reviewed, approved and committed to production, or a working copy can be rejected and rework requested. If approved, all changes in the working copy can be committed to production or only selected changes. Comparison reports are available as well. Multiple working copies can exist in parallel and, just as production versions, working copies also have role based access control.

Alternatively, one can make changes directly to a production version and, possibly keep status fields on the individual resources and identify people to be notified at that level. This would in-turn, drive notifications. For users wanting more elaborate workflow capabilities that possibly also integrate with some processes/activities outside of TopBraid EVN, EVN can be integrated with a third party workflow engine.

Q: What is the difference between TopBraid EVN and TopBraid Composer in terms of creating and managing ontologies?

TopBraid Composer is a single user tool with a technical thick client (Eclipse) UI. TopBraid EVN is a collaborative multi-user web product with a more streamlined and simplified user interface. As an enterprise business application EVN supports access control and provides web services for ontology use by other applications.

Q: Can TopBraid EVN connect to IBM’s IIS toolset for lineage purposes?

EVN can talk to other systems through APIs and connectors. And it provides access to the information it manages through APIs. Primarily, these are RESTful web services, but other ways of connecting are also possible and used by our customers. For example, through JMS messages.

Q: How can resources (classes, properties, instances) in one ontology be linked to respective resources in another ontology?

One way that ontologies are often linked is where one ontology “includes” another. A typical example of this was illustrated during the demo, using the case of FIBO. FIBO has been developed as a standard foundational business model by the EDM council. An organization may want to use FIBO as the core for their business model, but wants to add local definitions and extensions to some classes. In this case, for example, some new classes could be created in the ontology that includes FIBO, and those classes might be connected to corresponding FIBO classes through subclass statements.

Another more fine grained way of linking ontologies is common when the ontologies have instance data. One can create a crosswalk to represent correspondences between instances in one ontology to instances in the other. An example of where such a crosswalk might be needed and useful would be to connect certain resources in the ICD10 ontology (that is, the International Classification of Diseases, Version 10, ontology) to those in an earlier version of that ontology, ICD9. Although we have not demoed this during the webinar, TopBraid EVN includes support for crosswalks.

Q: Can you use ontologies and taxonomies together within TopBraid EVN?

Yes, it is straightforward and not uncommon to do that. In EVN, using SKOS the terms are all of the type “Concept”. But a taxonomy can have need for “schema” beyond SKOS – for instance the need to add more types. Those types and their properties can be defined in an ontology and linked within the taxonomy. An example of this could be where a taxonomy needs to refer to geographic concepts such as countries, capitals, and cities. TopBraid EVN lets you create these new classes and properties directly in a taxonomy, but a better practice is to have a separate geo ontology that defines these classes and corresponding properties and is then included in the taxonomy of geo entities.

Q: How long do you keep the change history?

There is no build-in limit. However, after some period of time you may want to archive changes and there is a built-in capability to do so.