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Ontologies constitute one of the most important and enabling components of the semantic Web, allowing geoscientists to explicitly and formally model their knowledge base for sharing and reuse over a global network. The geoscience community, realizing the need for such knowledge-enhancing technologies, has started developing a series of geoontologies for specific fields. We analyze the problems of designing geoontologies, emphasizing issues related to conceptual modeling and system architecture, and present the preliminary conceptual model of part of the structural geology ontology (StructuralGeoOntology). We discuss the ontology development process and identify a set of useful steps and activities that enhance and facilitate the development of any geoontology.

Developing ontologies for any field in the geosciences becomes complex if all the concepts and their relationships in the field are included in a single, large ontology. To reduce complexity, we design the StructuralGeoOntology with a modular architecture involving multiple ontologies. This component-based ontology merges several homogeneous subontologies from allied subdisciplines in structural geology, and integrates ontologies from other fields. Each of the shared subontologies will have its corresponding relational database. The modular architecture leads to simplified and more efficient modeling, development, integration, maintenance, reasoning, and future extensibility for the ontologies and databases.

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