ESWC 2016: Keynotes and paper highlights

by Mike Lauruhn

The main program of the 2016 ESWC conference took place on May 31 - June 2, 2016. [for my write-up on the Workshops & Tutorials, please see my previous blog post.] For some reason, it seemed fitting to me personally that the main program for ESWC 2016 was book-ended by a pair of talks about owl:sameas.

Jim Hendler gave the opening keynote with the intriguing title, "Wither OWL in a knowledge-graphed, Linked-Data World?" (Though in the days leading into the conference, he asked that attendees to consider the implications of "wither OWL" and "whither OWL." In his talk, he reminded the audience that the need for ontologies in the real world is increasing and that "On the Web, ontologies are increasingly needed." Shortcomings lie in the manner in which owl:sameas is used incorrectly in mapping data to data and that owl:sameas does not account for a part --> whole relationship, which is need across the gene ontology as well as most medical and health science models. He also cited the lack of temporal reasoning in OWL. Ultimately, he argued that more research needs to go into how to formalize these types of expressions that will be essential for the modern web.

The keynote almost foreshadowed a great paper presentation from by Wouter Beek. In it, Beek addressed issues related to entities considered to be the same, but not all contexts. While acknowledging it would not be expected to anticipate all possible contexts where an entity would be used, Beek and his coauthors propose an alternative semantics for owl:sameAs that creates a hierarchy of subrelations. Within the hierarchy, identity statements depends on the dataset where the statement occurs.

Paper highlights included the eventual Best Paper winner for the In Use & Industry track. Achille Fokoue from IBM presented Tiresias, a framework for predicting Drug-Drug Interactions. The presentation covered the data integration and construction of a knowledge graph, as well as the similarity metrics and prediction that took advantage of the graph. 

Three more papers in the same track caught my attention as the discussed initiatives attempting to bridge gaps that would both encourage generation of Linked data -- Pieter Heyvaert, 'RMLEditor: A Graph-based Mapping Editor for Linked Data Mappings' and Mauro Dragoni, 'Enriching a Small Artwork Collection through Semantic Linking' -- and make Linked Data applications easier to develop, Ali Khalili's 'Adaptive Linked Data-driven Web Components: Building Flexible, Reusable Semantic Web Interfaces'.

ESWC2016 proved to be a busy week of tutorials, workshops, keynotes, and papers. It is quite interesting to see how mature a domain is when conferences are are able to strike a balance between emerging technolgies (tracks dedicated to Reasoning and Machine Learning), a view of opporunities in industry (via the In Use track and keynotes), and reflection on the past foundations.