Editorial Preface - JAIS Special Issue on Ontologies in the Context of Information Systems

Article excerpt

Ontologies, in the information systems context, deal with the structures of the world about which an information system informs, or to which it responds based on changes in that world. Ontologies are fundamental for system interoperability and integration; for increasing intelligence, flexibility, and reasoning around system responses and behaviors; for negotiating the meanings of the data in the system; and for innovating with new business models. Their importance has grown with the rise of enterprise systems, the semantic web, knowledge management systems, and new forms of value system integration, among other factors. This special issue of Journal of the Association of Information Systems (JAIS) on Ontologies in the Context of Information Systems contains three papers presenting contributions to the theory, domain knowledge, and methodologies for applying ontologies in the Information System (IS) field.

This issue has been produced according to the developmental review process of JAIS. As part of this process, we followed three broad stages: (1) screening of extended abstracts, (2) developmental review of papers selected based on the extended abstracts, and (3) peer review of papers selected in the developmental review stage.

We received 66 abstracts in response to the Call for Submission. Of these we invited authors of 12 abstracts to submit full papers. We received 10 papers in response. After the developmental evaluation by the editors and reviewers, one paper was rejected. The authors of the remaining nine papers were asked to develop and revise them based on detailed reviewers' comments. We received seven revised manuscripts. These papers were then sent for peer reviews that resulted in inviting authors of three papers to submit revised papers. One paper was withdrawn at this stage and we received two revisions. Another paper that had been reviewed for the JAIS special issue on Systems Analysis and Design was moved to the special issue of ontologies based on its contents. These three papers underwent another round of reviews and were finally accepted. They reflect a wide range of ontologies-related issues and methods applied in the research and development of ontologies for information system domain.

The special issue opens with an article by Wales, Shalin, and Bass on the development of a naming convention and a related ontology for scientific work and distant actions by a robotic rover as part of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration's (NASA) Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission during 2001-2004. This paper is written in an ethnographic style, which readers may find to be quite different from the style of qualitative papers usually found in the IS literature.

Wales, Shalin, and Bass describe the development of an ontology of action and a naming convention to help interdisciplinary teams in the MER mission collaborate on the development of scientific plans for Mars rovers, essentially robots that execute actions in a distant physical environment - the Martian surface. This domain involves high uncertainty, high variability, and time- and mission-criticality. The naming conventions and the ontology of action had to provide unambiguous semantics and terminology to facilitate communication among interdisciplinary teams and for software systems used for real-time planning and action requests in a dynamic environment. Furthermore, the ontology and naming conventions also had to be flexible enough so that they could be adjusted to support mission scientists and engineers who were requesting new objects and new actions as they were themselves learning from the rover's activities in the Mars exploration mission. The authors describe the grounded theory and ethnographic approaches that they used to develop communication and organize professional discourse for the mission and the resulting naming conventions and ontology they developed over the course of the mission.

The approach and methods described in this paper can be applicable to other domains that involve team-based work in dynamic environments where actions and decision making are contingent upon immediate past actions. …