Suggestion for approach to our mandate

Thu May 4 15:05:21 2000

A comment by Stephen M. Richard about

Science language for geologic-map databases

Language (definition #5 at a formal
system of signs and symbols (as FORTRAN or a calculus in logic) including
rules for the formation and transformation of admissible expressions.

Since the mandate for this technical team is to develop standardized
nomenclature, we are working on the semantics, not the syntax of science

The mandate for the technical team is to develop standardized nomenclature
for description of the following things:

1.	geologic map units
2.	linear geologic features
3.	point geologic features
4.	spatial relationships among geologic map units, linear features and point
5.	geologic relationships among geologic map units, linear features and point
This is a much broader mandate than developing a lithologic classification.
My reading of the mandate is that we are to produce what is being called an
ontology in the knowledge engineering/artifical intelligence community (see
links at In
engineering lingo, “an ontology is a description (like a formal
specification of a program) of the concepts and relationships that can exist
for an agent or a community of agents” (Tom Gruber,

I suggest as an approach to the problem, we do something like the following:

1.	Each of us study several geologic maps we have made or use for are
particular field of interest, and extract the terms used in the description
of the things listed in the mandate.
2.	Compile the words into a single list, perhaps ranking priority in terms of
how many times the word appears on the separate lists
3.	Assign subsets of the list to committee members to produce definitions.
4.	Review the definitions to assure that all terms used in the definitions
are also defined
The definitions must specify necessary and sufficient conditions for the
application of each term. A necessary condition specifies the things that
may be assumed true of any object or situation to which the term is applied.
A sufficient condition specifies the minimum conditions required before the
term can be applied to an object or situation. There will be a set of
fundamental concepts that are not amenable to necessary and sufficient
definitions; these will overlap with existing base ontologies that we can
use as a foundation.

The product will be a formal system of terminology in which every term has a
precise definition. Some terms, like mineral names, probably already have
necessary and sufficient definitions.

By producing the word list by inspection of maps, we can probably focus our
effort on a set of words that are actually used.

Context of this discussion

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