The European Centre for Ontological Research (ECOR) represents a new approach in applying ontology to a variety of problems in information science and related areas. The Centre, which was founded at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken in 2004, draws on the expertise and skills of existing institutions throughout Europe.

ECOR collaborates within a network of Members and Partners
Central to this endeavour is the idea of sustained and coordinated collaboration with institutions, organisations and companies that have a proven track record of excellence in ontological research and in the application of ontology to solve concrete problems. All organisations collaborating with ECOR are convinced of the need for an interdisciplinary approach based on philosophical rigour and all are aiming towards the development of a common methodology for ontology development and evaluation. They have agreed to undertake co-operative research in several broad areas of ontology design, implementation, and application, ranging over the exchange of research personnel for short research visits and participation in joint projects, joint supervision of doctoral research, joint production of software and authorship of research papers in the area of ontology and collaborative participation in European research networks. Cooperating institutions will collaborate in seeking funding at national and international levels for ontology-related research and development activities.
  • ECOR Members have ontology as their primary focus of research;
  • ECOR Partners bring a range of different types of expertise related either to software engineering, formal reasoning, or language technology, or to specific vertical domains such as bio-informatics, finance, law, and so on.

    Previous efforts at ontology building have conceived this project in pragmatic terms, as an outgrowth of knowledge engineering or artificial intelligence research or more generally as a project deriving its motivation from the need to solve problems internal to the development of computer systems. ECOR, in contrast, looks beyond the realm of software artifacts, starting out from the idea that the project of developing reference ontologies can profit from the theories developed by philosophers over 2500 years of ontological research.
    Too many ontology builders have taken as their starting point existing database systems or the conceptualizations used by the practitioners within given domains, without sufficiently checking whether these conceptualizations correspond with identifiable entities and relations on the side of reality itself. ECOR, in contrast, advocates a vision according to which careful attention is paid from the very start to the question what the world is like to which an ontology-based system is to be applied. ECOR does not dictate any particular philosophical or metaphysical stance with respect to reality. Indeed it seeks to do justice precisely to the fact that the very same reality may be sliced in different ways when addressed from different perspectives. The approach requires however that, whatever philosophical stance is taken, it is used consistently and rigorously and on the basis of clearly stated principles.
    ECOR will support research not only on the foundations of the principles-based approach but also on applications of this approach to concrete problems. To this end ECOR is actively seeking partners with specific application needs.

    ECOR is managed on a daily basis by the Directors in Saarbrücken, executing the powers delegated to them by the Strategic Management Board which consists of the Directors together with representatives of the Member institutions. The Strategic Management Board is responsible for all decisions pertaining to ECOR’s strategic development.
    The Directors are responsible for the execution of operational, financial and personnel-related tasks, including the search for new candidate Member and partner institutions in line with the criteria outlined above. They are also ready to bear responsibility for project management once (research-, consultancy- or service-) contracts have been secured.
    The Strategic Management Board (SMB) is responsible for determining ECOR’s strategy and for taking all associated decisions, including admission of new partners and Members, the setting of research priorities, underwriting IPR strategy, and so on. The SMB will convene on a monthly basis (normally through conference call). Decisions are taken with a normal majority, one vote per Board member. In case of tied votes, the President of the Board takes the final decision.
    The President is initially elected for a five-year term and later for a three-year term with the possibility of re-election. Current President is Barry Smith.