Vulnerability Ontology

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Our overall aim was to develop a terminological structure for the vulnerability domain that allows to describe the key facts for assessments and make their content easily accessible at a glance. In numerous sessions our group developed the structure of this ontology collaboratively and revised it by doing some “test-cases” and discussing the “fit” of the terminological structure to the content which should be organized by it. While populating the wiki with first assessments we quickly recognized that this is an adaptation process that will still go on.


What is an Ontology?

As is commonly known wikis are a useful tool to collect and share information. Conventional wikis are good for storing and retrieving individual information, but not for getting aggregated or queried information since their content is barely machine-interpretable and only weakly structured (cf. Krötzsch et al. 2007)[1]. A semantic wiki allows to organize categories hierarchically and thus improves the consistency of the content. The structure of the wiki is provided by an ontology, which could be understood as a hierarchical representation of concepts and their interrelations in a certain knowledge domain. “An ontology (in the computer science sense) is a formal representation of technical concepts and their interrelations in a form that supports domain knowledge. Generally, an ontology is hierarchical, with child concepts having explicit properties to specialize the parent concept(s)” (Raskin & Pan 2005 p. 1120)[2]. Common components of ontologies regardless of the language in which they are expressed are:

Vulnerability Ontology 1.0

The aim of in developing the vulnerability ontology (version 1) was to develop an initial terminological structure for the vulnerability domain that allows the classification of different approaches to vulnerability assessment in a structured and rational manner. The ontology was developed by a group of scientists in engineering, sociology, geography and planning in an iterative manner and revised in numerous sessions based on “test cases”. Like in most taxonomic approaches in vulnerability research or social science in general we will always encounter some difficulties in "classifying" all potential objects by a predefined set of categories and properties.

Core Structure

The vulnerability ontology addresses four core questions. These questions reflect the main content of the branches in the ontology and are described in seperate sections of the wiki:

  1. Vulnerability of what?
  2. Vulnerability to what?
  3. What is the context of the assessment?
  4. How is vulnerability measured?

View Ontology Map 

You can view the full Vulnerability Ontology 1.0 by clicking on the nodes to expand the branches

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Download Ontology Files

  1. FreeMind File (Version 1.0)


  1. Krötzsch, M, Vrandecic, D, Völkel, M, Haller, H & Studer, R 2007, 'Semantic Wikipedia', Web Semantics, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 251–261.
  2. Raskin, RG & Pan, MJ 2005, 'Knowledge representation in the semantic web for Earth and environmental terminology (SWEET)', Computers and Geosciences, vol. 31, no. 9, pp. 1119–1125.
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