Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 173–192 | Cite as

Initial design process of the sustainability science ontology for knowledge-sharing to support co-deliberation

  • Terukazu KumazawaEmail author
  • Kouji Kozaki
  • Takanori Matsui
  • Osamu Saito
  • Mamoru Ohta
  • Keishiro Hara
  • Michinori Uwasu
  • Michinori Kimura
  • Riichiro Mizoguchi
Original Article


Implementation of the sustainability science (SS) approach is often difficult because of poor communication between experts from different academic fields. We focused on ontology engineering as a method of knowledge structuring that supports the co-deliberation process. However, SS is too broad for a few experts to construct an ontology because SS targets and covers almost all existing research fields from the viewpoint of problem-solving. The N-iteration process is required for completing an SS ontology. In the present paper, we discuss the initial design process for constructing an ontology on SS from the aspect of a knowledge-sharing tool to support co-deliberation. First, we identified the SS ontology by referring to the existing literature. Second, we traced the structuring process of the SS ontology, which is independent of the existing research domain. Third, we compared the SS ontology with existing ontologies or concept structures on SS. Fourth, we assessed the SS ontology produced in the initial process in terms of relevance and coverage and addressed areas for improvement in order to facilitate co-deliberation among researchers from different domains. As a result of developing the SS ontology and applying it to the mapping tool that we developed based on the ontology, we found the following three points: the SS ontology enables us to define concepts relevant to SS without overlapping by distinguishing part-of and attribute-of relationships at the upper level of the ontology; the SS-based mapping tool successfully represents the potential countermeasures required by the targeted problem for all scientific fields except experimental engineering; however, the SS ontology requires further improvement in order to represent the conceptual linkage arising from compound and secondary problems and the fulfillment of classes at the lower hierarchy of Shortage problem, and requires slots for the entire hierarchy. In addition, based on the discussion of the areas for improvement, we found that missing slots and classes should be added in the process in which we use or improve tools corresponding to a variety of requirements for supporting co-deliberation. In this way, we are able to propose an incremental process for constructing the SS ontology from the aspect of a knowledge-sharing tool to support co-deliberation.


Sustainability science Ontology Design process Co-deliberation support Knowledge structuring 



The present research was supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) through Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology as part of the IR3S flagship research project “Development of an Asian Resource-Circulating Society” undertaken by Osaka University and Hokkaido University. Additional support for the present research was provided by the Global Environment Research Fund (Hc-082) of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan and JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 24710054. We gratefully acknowledge the helpful discussions with Prof. Hideaki Takeda, Prof. Hidehiko Kanegae, Prof. Katsuki Takao, Dr. Marek Makowski, Dr. Guenther Fischer, and Dr. Tatiana Ermolieva. We would also like to thank Asst. Prof. Yohei Yamaguchi, Lecturer Yugo Yamamoto, and Mr. Takeru Hirota for their involvement in this study. Finally, we would like to thank the 28 experts who completed the questionnaire survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terukazu Kumazawa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kouji Kozaki
    • 2
  • Takanori Matsui
    • 3
  • Osamu Saito
    • 4
  • Mamoru Ohta
    • 5
  • Keishiro Hara
    • 6
  • Michinori Uwasu
    • 6
  • Michinori Kimura
    • 7
  • Riichiro Mizoguchi
    • 8
  1. 1.Center for Coordination, Promotion and CommunicationResearch Institute for Humanity and NatureKyotoJapan
  2. 2.The Institute of Scientific and Industrial ResearchOsaka UniversityIbarakiJapan
  3. 3.Division of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering, Graduate School of EngineeringOsaka UniversitySuitaJapan
  4. 4.Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP)United Nations UniversityTokyoJapan
  5. 5.Enegate Co., Ltd.Settus-ShiJapan
  6. 6.Center of Environmental Innovation Design for SustainabilityOsaka UniversitySuitaJapan
  7. 7.Lake Biwa Environmental Research InstituteOtsuJapan
  8. 8.Research Center for Service ScienceJapan Advanced Institute of Science and TechnologyNomiJapan

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