Knowledge Engineering Review

OWL ontology evolution: Understanding and unifying the complex changes

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Knowledge-based systems and their ontologies evolve due to different reasons. Ontology evolution is the adaptation of an ontology and the propagation of these changes to dependent artifacts such as queries and other ontologies. Besides identifying basic/simple changes, it is imperative to identify complex changes between two versions of the same ontology to make this adaptation possible. There are many definitions of complex changes applied to ontologies in the literature. However, their specifications across works vary both in formalization and textual description. Some works also use different terminologies to refer to a change, while others use the same vocabulary to refer to distinct changes. Therefore, there is a lack of a unified list of complex changes. The main goals of this paper are: (i) present the primary documents that identify complex changes; (ii) provide critical analyses about the set of the complex changes proposed in the literature and the documents mentioning them; (iii) provide a unified list of complex changes mapping different sets of complex changes proposed by several authors; (iv) present a classification for those complex changes; and (v) describe some open directions of the area. The mappings between the complex changes provide a mechanism to relate and compare different proposals. The unified list is thus a reference for the complex changes published in the literature. It may assist the development of tools to identify changes between two versions of the same ontology and enable the adaptation of artifacts that depend on the evolved ontology.