In developing information systems, conceptual modeling is among the most fundamental means. The importance attributed to conceptual modeling has not only given rise to a lot of modeling methods, but also to the "yet another modeling approach (YAMA)" syndrome and the "not another modeling approach (NAMA)" hysteria. Criticism of conceptual modeling methods usually targets their lacking of theoretical foundations. In response to such criticism, various approaches towards theoretical foundations of conceptual modeling have been proposed so far. One of the recent responses to the quest for theoretical foundations of conceptual modeling is the reference to the philosophical ontology. The currently most prominent of diverse approaches towards ontological foundations of conceptual modeling appears to be the Bunge-Wand-Weber (BWW) ontology. Recent approaches attempt to regard BWW ontology as another conceptual data model as well as a criterion for evaluating various conceptual models. However, unfortunately, relatively few researches have been made on interoperability between the Entity-Relationship (ER) model, which is the most dominant conceptual data model, and ontology based model. In this paper, we investigate the interoperability between ontology and the ER model. In detail we (i) reclassify components of ER model with respect to ontology concepts, (ii) identify some components that cannot be directly represented in ontology notation, and (iii) present alternative representations to the components to acquire ontologically clear ER diagrams. Additionally, we (iv) present a set of mapping rules for converting the ontologically clear ER diagram into the corresponding ontology. In a case study, we show the process of converting an ER diagram for a concise Project Management System (PMS) into the ontologically clear ER diagram and the corresponding ontology. We also describe an experiment that we undertook to test whether users understand the Ontologically-Clear ER diagram better.
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