OntoWeb Working Group on Process Standards

The Working Group on Process Standards is part of the Special Interest Group on Content Standardisation of the ESPRIT-funded OntoWeb Project.




A study of 29 candidate models and representations which might act as the basis of a process standard to meet a large number of identified requirements was conducted as part of the NIST PSL project and published in May 1998.

Knutilla, A., Schlenoff, Ray, C.S., Polyak, S.T., Tate, A., Cheah, S.C. and Anderson, R.C. (1998) "Process Specification Language: An Analysis of Existing Representations", NISTIR 6160, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, USA.
See http://www.mel.nist.gov/msidlibrary/summary/9807.html
Contempory with the NIST PSL work, and accounting for it, a 1998 look at possible contributory efforts for work on a shared plan, process and activity representation was undertaken as part of the DARPA project on SPAR in 1998. This article contains many of the references and related URLs for work up to that time that contributed to standards such as PIF, SPAR and NIST PSL.

Tate, A. (1998), "Roots of SPAR - Shared Planning and Activity Representation", The Knowledge Engineering Review, Vol 13(1), pp. 121-128, in Special Issue on "Putting Ontologies to Use" (eds. Uschold. M. and Tate, A.), Cambridge University Press, March 1998.
See http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/project/spar/DOCS/spar-roots.html.
Since that date the main developments have been in the devlopment of a number of XML encodings and industry "standards" for describing processes, web services and other kinds of activities, processes and task-achieving services on the web.

As background, a useful introduction to work on ontologies, and to the role of processes within ontologies is provided by John Sowa:

A list of potential contributions to a standard process content model for the web are in the following sections. The classification and relevance of these is described in the section headed "Approach". SIG members and others should mail Austin Tate to propose efforts not mentioned here that may be relevant background for the work of the SIG.


It is taken as a given that it is worth seeking to adopt shared standards for the description and sharing of processes and activity-related information on the web. It is also taken as a given that this is a very dynamic area and that even with the best knowledge available to guide the selection of a proposed process standard, any chosen representation will only meet some requirements and may prove not to be a successful and widely adopted standard that will last a long time. But it is also taken as a given that well described web information using such an agreed content standard will be understood at any time in the future, and can be mapped as needed to emerging new representations.

It may be feasible to adopt a core upper ontology which will have longer life, but even this should be assumed to date and be replaced in time. A model of distributing the mechanism for reaching and communicating agreements on extensions so that not all aspects have to be centrally agreed and maintained is taken as a requirement - adopting the process Interchange Format (PIF) "Partial Shared View" model (see http://ccs.mit.edu/pif/) is a possible engineering approach.

A proposed classification of these efforts is made below, but this also may be the subject of comment by SIG members for moving entries between categories.

  1. Primary contributions on which a process content standard most likely will be based.
  2. Secondary efforts that ought to be considered as requirements that should be mappable to the chosen process content standard. These typically cover some limited requirement (e.g. for exchange of simply linked workflow processes) so do not adopt a very general process model.

Initial List of Primary Contributing Efforts

Initial List of Other Contributing Efforts

SIG Workplan

For the OntoWeb SIG activities, there were three goals (achieved by 10-Dec-2001):
  1. Deliver a "state-of-the-art report" with concise descriptions of the most relevant standards.
  2. Decide the standards cluster on which we will focus our ontology-based harmonisation effort. This means we should select a FEW standards that:
  3. To isolate the main foundational issues we want to discuss with the other OntoWeb WGs.

Recommendation on Focus for Future Study within OntoWeb

NIST PSL, BPML and eBTWG's business process schema are suggested as the bases to concentrate on as they all have standards activity behind them. These represent a range of interests and alternative requirements to generalise the approach. The work on CPR 2 and SPAR are also relevant, and indeed some of this provided background used in NIST PSL, but since these activities are not part of a standardisation process they are not considered as relevant for use directly within OntoWeb. All these 5 bases have OntoWeb membership and other corresponding member interests. IEEE SUO is of interest as it is being actively developed and incorporates the results of the NIST PSL and CPR efforts.


The working group members represent some of the most experienced people worldwide who have been involved in creating shared plan, process and activity representations or standards for some years. Several of them are actively leading efforts to develop or refine standards at international level.

Austin Tate, the coordinator, has the following background:

Page maintained by Austin Tate (a.tate@ed.ac.uk)
Updated: Tue Sep 7 18:27:47 2004