Universal object

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This page is about different types of universal objects. The question about the attributes of universal objects is discussed on the page Attribute.

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Universal object describes a kind of object with a particular purpose and a standardised structure according to its purpose and the PSSP ontology. The open assessment contains the following kinds of objects: assessment, variable, method, study, lecture, nugget, and encyclopedia article.

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What are the kinds of objects that are needed to describe an assessment (including all its content about reality and all the work needed for creating the content) in such a way that all objects comply with the PSSP ontology?


Assessment is a process for describing a particular piece of reality in aim to fulfil a certain information need in a decision-making situation. The word assessment can also mean the end product of this process, i.e. some kind of assessment report. Often it is clear from the context whether assessment means the doing of the report or the report itself. Methodologically, these are two different objects, called the assessment process and the assessment product, respectively. Unlike other universal objects, assessments are discrete objects having defined starting and ending points in time and specific contextually and situationally defined goals. Decisions included in an assessment are described within the assessment, and they are no longer described as variables. In R, there was previously an S4 object called oassessment, but that is rarely if at all used nowadays.

Variable is a description of a particular piece of reality. It can be a description of physical phenomena, or a description of value judgments. Variables are continuously existing descriptions of reality, which develop in time as knowledge about them increases. Variables are therefore not tied into any single assessment, but instead can be included in other assessments. Variable is the basic building block of describing reality. In R, variables are implemented using an S4 object called ovariable.

Method is a systematic procedure for a particular information manipulation process that is needed as a part of an assessment work. Method is the basic building block for describing the assessment work (not reality, like the other universal objects). In practice, methods are "how-to-do" descriptions about how information should be produced, collected, analysed, or synthesised in an assessment. Some methods can be about managing other methods. Typically, methods contain a software code or another algorithm to actually perform the method easily. Previously, there was a subcategory of method called tool, but the difference was not clear and the use of tool is depreciated. In R, methods are typically ovariables that contain dependencies and formulas for computing the result, but some context-specific information about dependencies are missing. Therefore, the result cannot be computed until the method is used within an assessment.

Study is an information object that describes a research study and its answers, i.e. observational or other data obtained. The study methods are described as the rationale of the object. Unlike traditional research articles, there is little or no discussion, because the interpretation of the results happens in other objects, typically in variables for which the study contains useful information. A major difference to a variable is that the rationale of the study is fixed after the research plan has been fixed and work done, and also the answer including the study results is fixed after the data has been obtained and processed. The question (or scope) of a study reflects the generalisability of the study results, and it is open to discussion and subject to change also after the study has been finished. In contrast, in a variable the question is typically fixed, and the answer and rationale change as new information comes up.

Lecture contains a piece of information that is to be mediated to a defined audience and with a defined learning objective. It can also be seen as a process during which the audience learns, instead of being a passive recipient of information.

Encyclopedia articles are objects that do not attempt to answer a specific research question. Instead, they are general descriptions about a topic. They do not have a universal attribute structure.

Nugget is an object that was originally designed to be written by a dedicated (group of) person(s). Nuggets are not freely editable by others. Also, they do not have a universal structure.


In general, descriptions of reality are described as products, while the work needed to produce these descriptions is described as processes. Assessment, variable, and class are product-type objects, and method is a process-type object.

In addition to the object types listed above we could add context as the object type that is above assessments in the hierarchical structure. In practice contexts typically do not need to be explicitly defined as such, rather only their influence in the assessments needs to be explicated, and therefore they are not considered here in any more detail.

Class is a set of items (objects) that share the same property or properties. The membership in a class is determined by an inclusion criterion. The property is utilised as a part of all objects that fulfill the criterion. Classes can be used in describing general information that is shared by more than one object. Class efficiently reduces the redundancy of information in the open assessment system. This improves the inter-assessment efficiency of the assessment work. However, classes are still ambiguous as objects, and there has not bee enough need for them. Therefore, they are currently not used in open assessment. Another object type with similar problems is hatchery.

See also

Materials and examples for training in Opasnet and open assessment
Help pages Wiki editingHow to edit wikipagesQuick reference for wiki editingDrawing graphsOpasnet policiesWatching pagesWriting formulaeWord to WikiWiki editing Advanced skills
Training assessment (examples of different objects) Training assessmentTraining exposureTraining health impactTraining costsClimate change policies and health in KuopioClimate change policies in Kuopio
Methods and concepts AssessmentVariableMethodQuestionAnswerRationaleAttributeDecisionResultObject-oriented programming in OpasnetUniversal objectStudyFormulaOpasnetBaseUtilsOpen assessmentPSSP
Terms with changed use ScopeDefinitionResultTool


Open assessment, object, information object, PSSP, ontology


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