One of the main efforts of the Millersville undergraduate students involves the development of an ontology vocabulary. An ontology is a formal, explicit specification of a shared conceptualization (Gruber, 1993). Closer to the discipline, Robert Raskin, principle developer of the Semantic Web for Earth and Environmental Technology (SWEET), defines an ontology as a formal representation of technical concepts and their interrelations in a form that supports domain knowledge. For our purposes in LEAD, it is a database of concepts and relationships invented to subcategorize terms based upon their specific and essential qualities. An ontology is agglutinative (new terms can be formed by combining existing terms) and semantic (the meaning of terms is formally specified).
The LEAD ontology vocabulary builds on the Semantic Web for Earth and Environmental Technology (SWEET) developed at NASA-JPL by Rob Raskin (2003) and others. The LEAD ontology vocabulary focuses on mesoscale and modeling concepts. It uses the same concept space, enables scalable classification of mesoscale and modeling concepts, and serves as an electronic encyclopedia for learning by discovery. However, unique to the LEAD ontology is the inclusion of a glossary/definition of terms – a dictionary, added with the expressed intention to facilitate discovery and to serve as a “help” function for educational users.
The LEAD goal for the ontology vocabulary work is to create a topology linking key concepts in mesoscale meteorology and modeling, with each concept representing a taxonomy. The LEAD ontology will be wrapped as a Web Service at the University of Alabama-Hunstville, and will be accessible via the LEAD Portal for query, information mining, and resource cataloging of data and services, as an educational service, a knowledge resource, and community reference. In addition, the LEAD ontology vocabulary will become an essential service in the development of a dynamically adaptive learning environment for students and educators.
While the primary responsibility for building the LEAD ontology falls on the research and developments efforts at University of Alabama-Hunstville (R. Ramachandran), undergraduates at Millersville University have been focusing on the task of expanding the SWEET ontology to include a vocabulary of mesoscale and modeling concepts. To date, undergraduates at Millersville have worked on an ontology vocabulary for mesoscale meteorology, numerical models, instruments, and units (dimensions). The ontology vocabulary has been expanded containing over 2000 terms and organized by Standard Name (quantity), LEADRealm, Phenomenon, Physical Property, Substance, Space, Numerics, Time, Services, Data, and Units. In addition, definitions of each quantity were adopted from the American Meteorological Society Glossary (AMS, 2000), and are included with the vocabulary.
The glossary pertaining to the ontology vocabulary is now accessible through the LEAD portal, and was presented at the Unidata Users Workshop in July 2006. The year-3 ontology vocabulary effort was undertaken primarily by Millersville undergraduates working closely with LEAD teams at UAH, OU, the University of Michigan (subcontract with NCSA) and others. Efforts now are underway to modify the glossaries for grades 6-12. LEAD teacher partners working as part of the LEAD Education & Outreach team are primarily responsible for this modification.