Tech Report

Designing the Ontological Foundations for Knowledge Domain Analysis Technology: An Interim Report

Research into tools to support both quantitative and qualitative analysis of specialist knowledge domains has been undertaken within the two broadly independent traditions of Bibliometrics and Knowledge Management. The ‘knowledge domain analysis’ (KDA) tools within the first tradition follow a citation-based approach to representing knowledge domains and use citation links as the basis for identifying patterns in the relationships among authors and publications. KDA tools within the second, more recent tradition extend the representational scope to include more features of knowledge domains such as the various types of agents in the domain, their intellectual affiliations, and their research activities, all with the aim of enabling more precise queries about the domains. This second approach depends on the development of software artefacts called ontologies, which are used to explicitly define schemes for representing knowledge domains as well as inference rules to facilitate querying. However, current research into ontologies of scholarly domains has not as yet emphasised the key role of ontologies as vehicles for reuse. This report investigates the design of a reusable KDA ontology, which lays the foundation for future development of KDA tools. Following emerging best practice in the field, the ontology ensures its usability by merging existing ontologies, while also improving its reusability by aligning to generic reference ontology.

By characterising knowledge domains as domains of semiotic activity, this report proposes to align the existing KDA ontologies to a generic reference ontology of semiotic components. In addition, this report investigates the use of an upper ontology of coherence connections for defining a core set of inference rules in the final ontology. Furthermore, this report submits that proven network-based analytical techniques from Bibliometrics can be reused to provide the basis for new KDA services. This is demonstrated through applying the ontology to represent and reason about two case study domains. Based on this investigation, this report intends to lay the ontological foundations for new KDA technology research.


Benn, N., Buckingham Shum, S., Domingue, J., Mancini, C. (2008). "Designing the Ontological Foundations for Knowledge Domain Analysis Technology: An Interim Report". Technical Report KMI-08-02, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK. Available at:

ID: kmi-08-02

Date: 2008

Author(s): Neil Benn, Simon Buckingham Shum, John Domingue, Clara Mancini

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