This paper describes an approach to ontology negotiation between agents supporting intelligent information management. Ontologies are
declarative (data-driven) expressions of an agent's “world”: the objects, operations, facts and rules that constitute the logical space within which an agent performs. Ontology negotiation enables agents to cooperate in performing a task, even if they are based on different ontologies.
Our objective is to increase the opportunities for “strange agents” – that is, agents not necessarily developed within the same framework or with the same contextual operating assumptions – to communicate in solving tasks when they encounter each other on the web. In particular, we have focused on information search
We have developed a protocol that allows agents to discover ontology conflicts and then, through incremental interpretation, clarification and explanation,
establish a common basis for communicating with each other. We have implemented this protocol in a set of Java classes that can be added to a variety of agents, irrespective
of their underlying ontological assumptions. We have demonstrated the use of the protocol, through this implementation, in a test-bed that includes two large scientific archives: NASA's Global Change Master Directory and NOAA's Wind and Sea Index.
This paper presents an overview of different methods for resolving ontology mismatches and motivates the Ontology Negotiation Protocol (ONP) as a method that addresses some
problems with other approaches. Much remains to be done. The protocol must be tested in larger and less familiar contexts (for example, numerous archives that have not been preselected) and it must be extended to accommodate additional forms of clarification and ontology evolution.