Semantic Web and its Role in Facilitating ICT Data Sharing in the Circular Economy: An Ontology Survey

Tracking #: 3586-4800

Anelia Kurteva
Kathleen McMahon
Alessandro Bozzon
Ruud Balkenende

Responsible editor: 
Agnieszka Lawrynowicz

Submission type: 
Survey Article
The environmental pressure, CO2 emissions (including embodied energy) and delivery risks of our digital infrastructures are increasing. The exponentially growing digitisation of services that drive the transition from industry 4.0 to industry 5.0 has resulted in a rising materials demand for ICT hardware manufacturing. ICT devices such as laptops and data servers are being used on average for 3 and 4-5 years respectively [1], while research shows that they should last 7 years before replacement [2]. A solution is to transition from a linear to a circular economy (CE), through which materials that were previously disposed of as waste are re-entered back into product life-cycles through processes such as reuse, recycling, remanufacturing, repurposing. However, the adoption of the CE in the ICT sector is currently limited due to the lack of tools that support knowledge exchange between sustainability, ICT and technology experts in a standardised manner and the limited data availability, accessibility and interoperability needed to build such tools. Further, the already existing knowledge of the domain is fragmented into silos and the lack of a common terminology restricts its interoperability and usability. These also lead to transparency and responsibility issues along the supply chain. For many years now, the Semantic Web has been known to provide solutions to such issues in the form of ontologies. Several ontologies for the ICT, materials and CE domains have been build and successfully utilised to support processes such as predictive maintenance. However, there is a lack of a systematic analysis of the existing ontologies in these domains. Motivated by this, we present a literature survey and analysis of, but not limited to, existing ontologies for ICT devices such as laptops, materials and the CE. In addition, we discuss the need for findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable (FAIR) data in the CE, different factors such as data privacy and security that affect this and the role of ontologies.
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Solicited Reviews:
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Review #1
By Ben De Meester submitted on 29/Mar/2024
Review Comment:

The authors have largely addressed my comments. I'm very happy that the scope has been more clearly defined.
The unclear inclusion/exclusion criteria and thus unclarities about reproducibility remain.

A thing that strikes me: In the rebuttal (p6) is stated

We used our use case (laptops) to guide
the survey of ICT ontologies. We were motivated to answer the question: Which ontology(s) can help
us represent the lifecycle of an ICT device (such as a laptop) and its materials in the CE?

Meanwhile, section 3 paragraph 2 states

we present a set of competency questions (see Table 8 in the Appendix) that can be used as a starting point
(or a guideline) when building an ontology for ICT’s and its materials’ lifecycle management in the CE. We have also
used the competency questions to evaluate the relevance of each existing ontology (Section 5) with regards to our use

Although very related, the focus is different: the rebuttal focusses on existing ontologies (which is in line with the larger narrative of the journal), whereas the journal text focusses on new ontologies.
I suggest to fix that discrepancy.

It is also very weird that in the rebuttal p6 you state "We focused on including and analysing ontologies that are open access or have been presented by a scientific publication or an official report/project deliverable.", whilst this is not mentioned explicitly as such in the paper.

All in all, I think this paper provides an overview of existing working in its scope, and in the end, that's what a survey should do.

Review #2
Anonymous submitted on 04/Jun/2024
Review Comment:

This manuscript was submitted as 'Survey Article' and should be reviewed along the following dimensions: (1) Suitability as introductory text, targeted at researchers, PhD students, or practitioners, to get started on the covered topic.

Comprehensive review on existing ontologies on ICT hardware, materials and circular economy.

(2) How comprehensive and how balanced is the presentation and coverage.
Sufficiently comprehensive and literature coverage

(3) Readability and clarity of the presentation.

Readability is good but the paper is too long. Could the word count be reduced or please check the manuscript is within the word count prescribed by the journal

Short edits required as suggested below:

Page 3 ln 31 reformat as its not clear which models were considered- Page 3 Line 31 (....only several brand and models which can be considered outdated)

Page 3 Ln 34 Do you mean CE standard specific to ICT products ? because the ISO standard for circular economy is general is ISO 59004:2024

Page 23 Ln 39 edit author name in reference.