It is commonly agreed that networking, as a new way of collaboration, brings benefit to its members (Camarinha- Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005). Collaboration implies communication and sharing of knowledge between network participants. However, as the participants may be from different fields or may follow a different problem solving philosophy, it is necessary to introduce a mechanism to share common understanding of the information and to agree on a controlled vocabulary used for communication. An ontology provides a representation of knowledge, which can be used and re-used, in order to facilitate the comprehension of concepts and relationships in a given domain, and the communication between different domain actors, by making the domain assumptions explicit. These actors can be either software agents or people that need to access or share a piece of information (Gruber, 1993).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Professional Virtual Community (PVC): The combination of virtual community and professional community concepts. Virtual communities are defined as social systems of networks of individuals who use computer technologies to mediate their relationships. Professional communities provide environments for professionals to share the body of knowledge of their professions such as similar working cultures, problem perceptions, problem-solving techniques, professional values, and behavior (Camarinha-Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005).
Organization: A company, corporation, firm, enterprise or institution, or part thereof (whether incorporated or not, public or private) that has its own function(s) and administration that supplies products or services to other organizations.
Virtual Organization Breeding Environment (VBE): An association (also known as cluster) or pool of organizations and their related supporting institutions that have both the potential and the will to cooperate with each other through the establishment of a “base” long-term cooperation agreement and interoperable infrastructure (Camarinha-Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005). A VBE responds to business opportunities by forming VOs. As an organization, it has also competencies but not limited to the union of the competencies of its participants. The VBE competencies are the result of combining two or more participants’ competencies to realize more complex projects.
Protégé: An ontology editor and knowledge-base framework which supports the development of ontologies and their export into standard formats including RDF(S) (Brickley, 2004) and OWL (McGuinness & van Harmelen, 2004). It is free, open-source software, supported by a strong community of developers and users.
Virtual Team (VT): Also known as a geographically dispersed team (GDT), is a group of individuals who work across time, space, and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by means of communication technology. They have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have interdependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. Geographically dispersed teams allow organizations to hire and retain the best people regardless of the location. A virtual team does not always mean a team of tele-workers. Tele-workers are defined as individuals who work from home. Many virtual teams in today’s organizations consist of employees either working at home or in the office at different geographic locations.
Virtual Organization (VO): Comprises a set of (legally) independent organizations that share resources and skills to achieve its goal, but that is not limited to an alliance of for-profit enterprises. A Virtual Enterprise is therefore a particular case of a VO (Camarinha-Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005).
Ontology: A formal representation of a domain under consideration. It consists of individuals and classes or concepts (sets of individuals), their properties (attributes) and relations between them (roles). Usually it is represented in a formal language based on first-order logic. For the Web, the standardized languages are RDF (Beckett, 2004) and RDFS (Brickley, 2004), and their follow-up OWL (McGuinness & van Harmelen, 2004), all using the XML syntax.
Collaborative networked organization (CNO): A special type of collaborative network comprising only organized collaborations while, in general, collaborative networks include both organized and non-organized collaborations. A collaborative network?(Camarinha-Matos & Afsarmanesh, 2005) is constituted of a variety of entities (e.g., organizations and people) that are largely autonomous, geographically distributed, and heterogeneous in terms of their operating environment, culture, social capital and goals. These entities collaborate to better achieve common or compatible goals, and their interactions are supported by a computer network.