Benefits of realist ontologies to systems engineering
September 11, 2021
Applied ontologies have been used more and more frequently to enhance systems engineering. In this paper, we argue that adopting principles of ontological realism can increase the benefits that ontologies have already been shown to provide to the systems engineering process. Moreover, adopting Basic Formal Ontology (BFO), an ISO standard for top-level ontologies from which more domain specific ontologies are constructed, can lead to benefits in four distinct areas of systems engineering: (1) interoperability, (2) standardization, (3) testing, and (4) data exploitation. Reaping these benefits in a model-based systems engineering (MBSE) context requires utilizing an ontology's vocabulary when modeling systems and entities within those systems. If the chosen ontology abides by the principles of ontological realism, a semantic standard capable of uniting distinct domains, using BFO as a hub, can be leveraged to promote greater interoperability among systems. As interoperability and standardization increase, so does the ability to collect data during the testing and implementation of systems. These data can then be reasoned over by computational reasoners using the logical axioms within the ontology. This, in turn, generates new data that would have been impossible or too inefficient to generate without the aid of computational reasoners.