Collaborative Engineering Based on Knowledge-sharing Agreements

Greg Olsen, Mark Cutkosky, Jay M. Tenenbaum, and Thomas R. Gruber (1994). Collaborative engineering based on knowledge-sharing agreements. American Society for Mechanical Engineering (ASME) International Computers in Engineering conference, 1994.

This publication won the Best Paper award at a prestigious engineering conference. The design of products by multi-disciplinary groups is a knowledge intensive activity. Collaborators must be able to exchange information and share some common understanding of the information’s content. The hope, however, that a centralized standards effort will lead to integrated tools spanning the needs of engineering collaborators is misplaced. Standards cannot satisfy the information sharing needs of collaborators, because these needs cannot be standardized.

This paper discusses the design and use of a shared representation of knowledge (language and vocabulary) to facilitate communication among specialists and their tools. The paper advances the opinion that collaborators need the ability to establish and customize knowledge sharing agreements (i.e. mutually agreed upon terminology and definitions) that are usable by people and their machines. The paper describes a formal approach to representing engineering knowledge, describes its role in a computational framework that integrates a heterogeneous mix of software tools, and discusses its relationship to current and emerging data exchange standards.