Literature Review


There is a dearth of formal, printed literature in the realm of ontologies and what there is is generally in electronic form such as web-pages or pdf formatted documents, particularly those produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) - an organisation dedicated to the creation and adoption of technologies which will lead to the internet reaching its full potential. Perhaps the above should be clarified by saying that there is little literature in terms of ontologies as technology, more of which will be discussed in the body of this work. One of the few books available is by Gómez-Pérez, Fernandez-Lopez and Corcho, entitled Ontological Engineering: With Examples from the Areas of Knowledge Management, E-Commerce and the Semantic Web (Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing). Despite the title, the book is primarily a review of the various languages available for the formulation of ontologies with little real analysis of the ways in which ontologies might be applied, that isn't to say that that isn't a good enough reason for contemplating the book, merely that the title is misleading in that it almost begs to offer practical applications of ontologies without actually delivering. The University of Maryland and Stanford University in the USA are active in the development of ontologies with some staff from University of Maryland being the driving force behind early attempts at creating an ontology language, researchers at Stanford are responsible for the Protégé project, a Java based application which is rapidly gaining acceptance at the de facto ontology creation tool with its ability to create ontologies in a wide number of languages. There have been a number of articles in the Journal XMLJournal, notably by Khan and Malik but these have been quite light in tone and again look towards the future rather than offering practical applications for ontologies at the present, they are good introductions to the subject though. Professor Ian Horrocks at the University of Manchester is also prominent in the field of Ontologies and his website, accessible from the Universities webpage has many resources and references which have been invaluable in the creation of this project, in particular his Tutorial on OWL (available from: http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~horrocks/ISWC2003/Tutorial/) has been of great help, particularly when considering the differences between the syntactic web (or the present day internet) and the semantic web (or the internet of the future). He is perhaps most favourably seen by myself when he notes that realizing the full vision of people such as Tim Berners-Lee is probably too hard to do for now but that it is valuable to include semantic annotation to web content in order to at least make a start.

The NHS, a part of which is the focus of this work is in a constant state of flux and seems to have been for quite a number of years with various governments seemingly seeking to stamp their influence on the organisation. The Department of Health Website holds any number of organograms attempting clarify this, some would say, chaotic situation but they are often superseded in quick succession due to legislation. The sheer mass of directives and guidelines associated with NHS trusts is bewildering and rather than wade though these documents I found that the most appropriate place to seek clarification in this instance was secretaries. This may seem somewhat pat but in practice it is these people who have the greatest grasp on the workings of the organisation as they are required to navigate their progress through them every day. Guy Browning (no date) of the Weekend Guardian is particularly erudite when talking of this natural resource when he points out "If you want to know what's really going on in a company ask a secretary".

Because this work is concerned with a diagrammatic representation of an organisation I did have a look at resources dedicated to organograms but found that they were an imprecise and idiosyncratic technique at best and a fudge at worse. Indeed Michael Quinion (2000) even takes exception to the phrase itself and the use of an adapted UML State Chart for this work is primarily due to this admittedly aesthetic criticism and poor use of the English language.

Attendance at the 2003 6th International Protégé Workshop was enlightening because of the amount of work being carried out in the field of ontology development though it would seem that the majority of that effort is concentrated on the development of ontologies of illnesses and that that is partly due to financial considerations of the health care provision companies in the USA. Once able to properly place an illness in field of discourse one would be able to make proper provision for cost/benefit analysis of a specified treatment of that condition. This isn't quite the case in the UK but recent legislation and discussions with developers creating ontologies and knowledge management systems for UK GP practices are making that approach more viable here.