KBSI developed the syntax and an editor that process knowledge experts can use to develop process models for multiple applications. The technology simplifies the use of NIST’s Process Specification Language (PSL) in process-oriented knowledge sharing.
Because processes are present in all aspects of an organization, most decision-making applications and implementation solutions deal with the specification, representation, and manipulation of process-related information. The proliferation of process-centered software tools is justified by the tangible benefits that such tools, or a combination of such tools, bring to an organization. However, this proliferation has also created a new problem: the need for these applications to share knowledge about the processes they represent. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Process Specification Language (PSL) initiative has developed a language specification that represents and exchanges process-related information that is generic enough to be shared among many applications. All concepts in PSL are expressed as axioms in the style of a formal ontology. Some hurdles still remain, however: the lack of tools that simplify the use of PSL in process-oriented knowledge sharing and the absence of a corresponding metatheoretic foundation for those tools are impediments to the widespread adoption of PSL as a common, process-centric format.
KBSI worked with NIST in the Advanced Tools For Process Specification Language (ATPSL) initiative to develop the syntax and a software editor that a process knowledge expert could use to develop process models for multiple applications. KBSI had four primary objectives in this initiative: to develop the PSL metatheory, to develop a robust PSL syntax for process description, to develop a PSL editor that allows the authoring of PSL models that can be saved in PSL, and, finally, to design an Ontology-Driven Translator Generator (ODTG) toolkit that generates code for translators between PSL and any process-centric model format. The ATPSL initiative led to the following research findings and results:
- A metatheoretic framework that can be used in specifying the syntax and semantics of a number of PSL extensions, and that also can serve as a linguistic and semantic foundation for ontology integration.
- Two closely related syntax definitions for process description were developed for PSL: one based on KIF and one based on XML. The Knowledge Interchange Format (KIF) was chosen as a syntactic framework because it is the language of choice for knowledge reasoners, theorem provers, and agent communication, and because the PSL ontology uses KIF. XML, on the other hand, is very popular because of its simplicity, flexibility, portability, and its separation of data from presentation; XML has become the de facto common syntactic framework for diverse applications/domains.
- The PSL Editor, a platform-independent tool that allows a process knowledge expert to browse, edit and validate PSL models, and then save models in either the PSL/KIF or PSL/XML format. The editor has multiple views: a tree view, a graphical view, XML views, and a KIF view; editing any one view automatically updates all other views.
- A requirements analysis and architecture design for the Ontology-Driven Translator Generator (ODTG) to generate code for translators between PSL and any process-centric model format, both XML and non-XML.
The results of the ATPSL initiative have great commercial potential: the need to share information among software applications has increased dramatically in the last decade, particularly with regard to applications for managing and improving business practices. These applications are widely diverse and include process analysis tools, workflow management systems, project management tools, simulation tools, and optimization tools. Even within a single type of application focus (e.g., project management), there are a vast array of software vendors to choose from, each with its own unique, application-dependent model format. The technology developed in the ATPSL initiative provides software vendors and end-users with a powerful tool for developing models and migration solutions in a manner that is both time- and cost-effective.