Original specification of the REA Ontology – McCarthy, Geerts et al at University of Michigan
- Geerts, GL and WE McCarthy – An accounting object infrastructure for knowledge-based enterprise models – 1999
Transitional efforts to formalize REA Ontology using UML Diagrams – Poels, Paemeleire, Gailly et al at Ghent University
- Poels, G, A Maes, F Gailly and R Paemeleire – The pragmatic quality of Resources- Events-Agents diagrams an experimental evaluation – Working Paper – 2004 – later published as:
- Poels, G, A Maes, F Gailly and R Paemeleire – The pragmatic quality of Resources- Events-Agents diagrams an experimental evaluation – 2011
Formalization of the REA Enterprise Ontology using OWL and the UML Profile of OWL – Poels, Gailly et al at Ghent University
- Gailly, F and G Poels – Ontology-driven business modelling – Improving the conceptual representation of the REA ontology – Working Paper – 2007 – later published as:
- Gailly, F and G Poels – Towards ontology-driven information systems – Redesign and formalization of the REA ontology – 2007
- Gailly, F and G Poels – Towards ontology-driven information systems – Redesign and formalization of the REA ontology – PowerPoint Slidedeck – 2007
- Gailly, F, W Laurier and G Poels – Positioning REA as a business domain ontology – Working paper – 2007 – later published as:
- Gailly, F, W Laurier and G Poels- Positioning and formalizing the REA enterprise ontology – 2008
The REA Ontology is an “event ontology” (Allen, GN and ST March, 2006) that focuses on events occurring within the realm of a company, their participating agents, affected resources, and regulating policies. REA can be used as a reference for modeling a single business cycle (e.g. sales-collection) or a chain of business cycles, connected through resource flows. Applications supported by REA-driven modeling include the design of accounting and operations management systems, auditing and internal control, and conceptual data modeling. REA has been used in a number of international standardization efforts for e-collaboration systems. For instance, REA was the basis for the business process ontology in the UMM business process and information model construction methodology, the ECIMF system interoperability enabling methodology, and the Open-EDI business transaction ontology which is part of the ISO/IEC 15944-4 standard. REA has further been proposed as a theoretical basis for the reference models that underlie ERP systems.
Frederik Gailly and Geert Poels (Ghent University) set out with two goals:
- To establish the REA ontology as a domain ontology – specifically a domain ontology for business, using a semiotic framework (Stamper et al, 2000; Burton-Jones et al , 2005). Within this framework, the authors sought assistance with their evaluation of the ontology’s syntactic quality specifically from Welty et al (1999) and Lassila and McGuiness (2001), and with their evaluation of the ontology’s social quality from Guarino (1998) and Uschold and Jasper (1999).
- To enhance the specification of the REA ontology using both a formal language representation (the Web Ontology Language or OWL) and a graphical representation (the Unified Modeling Language or UML Profile for OWL) .
We will leave it largely up to the readers to familiarize themselves with the details of how the authors achieved their goal of establishing the REA ontology as a domain ontology for business. We simply present the semiotic framework (Burton-Jones et al , 2005) in Table 1 and highlight the authors’ evaluation of the REA ontology against this framework in Table 2. Finally, we note that the authors define business as “the activity of providing goods and services involving financial, commercial and industrial aspects”.
|Syntactic quality||Lawfulness||Correctness of syntax|
|Richness||Breadth of syntax used|
|Semantic quality||Interpretability||Meaningfulness of terms|
|Consistency||Consistency of meaning of terms|
|Clarity||Average number of word senses|
|Pragmatic quality||Comprehensiveness||Number of classes and properties|
|Accuracy||Accuracy of information|
|Relevance||Relevance of information for a task|
|Social quality||Authority||Extent to which other ontologies rely on it|
|History||Number of times ontology has been used|
Table 1. Metrics for evaluating ontologies (Burton-Jones, A et al, 2005)
Table 2. Evaluation of the REA ontology.
The authors’ evaluation of the syntactic quality of the REA ontology as a domain ontology for business highlighted the following deficiencies:
- the REA ontology was a somewhat incoherent mix of textual and graphical elements that spoke to its relative immaturity
- while some researchers (Bialecki 2001; Chou 2006; Geerts 2004) had taken steps to represent the REA ontology in a machine-readable format, none of these formalizations was widely known or generally accepted
- like Geerts and McCarthy (1999), the authors recognized the importance of better specifying the REA ontology
Again, we will leave it largely up to the readers to familiar themselves with the details of how the authors enhance the specification of the REA ontology. The main principles of their approach included:
- the authors apply formal procedures – the METHONTOLOGY framework (Fernandez-Lopez et al. 1997; G6mez-Perez and Rojas 1999) and the Operational Data Model (OMG, 2006) – to re-engineer the existing REA ontology
- Three main activities are identified in this re-engineering process (Figures 2 and 3):
- reverse engineering – the conceptualization of the REA ontology is recovered from whatever representation formats are available (e.g. text, tables, modeling diagrams)
- re-structuring – the recovered conceptualization of the REA ontology is re-designed and expressed in a graphical representation with well-defined syntax and semantics (like the UML Profile for OWL) 1
- forward engineering – the re-designed conceptualization is transformed into a re-engineered, formal language representation (like OWL)
Figure 2. A Business Domain Ontology Re-engineering Methodology – Process, Activities and Artifacts.
Figure 3. The recovery, re-design, and formalization of the REA domain ontology for business.
With this overview of the methodology used by Geerts, Laurier and Poels to re-engineer the REA ontology in 2007 – 2008, we can turn to the resulting graphical representation (UML Profile of OWL) and formal language representation (OWL) of the REA domain ontology for business.
Next: Graphical representation of the REA domain ontology for business (UML Profile for OWL)
- Using UML in the re-design of the REA ontology capitalizes on the familiarity of many end-users in the business domain with this technology. ↩