Ontology is a foundational discipline of philosophy that has its origins in ancient Greece and is represented in our own day by the work of analytical metaphysicians such as David Armstrong and Kit Fine.
Ontology in this philosophical sense is a theoretical discipline. It is (roughly) the science of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes and relations in every area of reality.
Intersection of Philosophy and Information Science
Ontology is also, however, a rapidly growing practical discipline at the intersection of philosophy and information science. Ontological tools and theories are increasingly being applied in bio- and medical informatics, in intelligence, defense and security analysis, in industry, publishing, finance, and other fields, where they serve as a basis for improved classifications, information integration, and automatic reasoning.
The University of Buffalo is a world center of research in applied ontology, opening the doors for our graduate students to successful careers in informatics and data science in fields such as biomedicine, finance, defense and security.
Students interested in this fast-growing field who wish to acquire a background in the theory and practice of ontology may apply for the M.A. in Philosophy with specialization in Ontology and Information Science. This interdisciplinary program, offered by the Department of Philosophy of the University at Buffalo, allows students to work with relevant faculty in Computer Science and Engineering, Geography, Informatics, Linguistics, and the Life Sciences.
We aim to train professionals who will understand the work that ontologists do and will have the ability to apply ontological theories to a broad range of problems. Graduates of Buffalo ontology programs have excellent placement opportunities in both government and industry.
The Department of Philosophy of the University at Buffalo is an international center of ontological research and is involved in collaborative projects with ontologists throughout the world, including the IEEE Standard Upper Ontology Project and the GOL (General Ontological Language) Project of the University of Leipzig.
Ontological research in Buffalo is currently centered on the ontological applications in medicine and biology, geographic information science, defense and security ontology, on the ontology of artifacts, and on a range of topics in applied ontology. Ontologists in Buffalo are supported by multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and other agencies, and this provides opportunities for students to become involved in funded research.
Ontologists are needed by private industry and by governments and other institutions to develop and manage large databases and directories, to model and analyze complex structures and processes, and to build systems for data and enterprise integration.
Buffalo’s special focus in ontology has resulted in an increasing number of students embarking on careers as ontologists in government and business.
For more information, see Careers in Ontology.
The National Center for Ontological Research (NCOR) was established in Buffalo in 2005 with the goal of advancing the quality of ontological research and development and of establishing tools and measures for ontology evaluation and quality assurance. Learn more.