Research issues in STARLab
This page contains some information on the general research interests of STARLab, as well as details on the DOGMA initiative that is the lab's anchor project. Detailed information on specific research projects and publications can be found elsewhere.
The Semantic Web, Databases and Ontologies Currently, STARLab's research interest is mainly focused on the fairly recent field of the so-called Semantic Web (T. Berners-Lee, 2000; also Scientific American, May 2001) and more specifically in one of its principal enabling technologies, known as "ontologies". One definition of an ontology is the one by N. Guarino and P. Giaretta (1995) (based on an earlier one by T. Gruber, 1993): "an ontology is an explicit, partial account of a conceptualization". Another related definition is the one given by M. Uschold and M. Gruninger: ontologies are agreements about shared conceptualizations. Indeed, since many conceptualizations about a small part of the world are possible, the term "agreement" is a key issue. An ontology thus necessarily includes a specification of the terms used (terminology) and agreements that allow to determine their meaning, along with the possible inter-relationships between these terms, standing for "concepts". To express concepts we need languages, of course. Several ontology languages are at this moment being developed and studied, most notably RDF Schema and OWL . Also, an ontology ---or rather its commitment--- restrains the possible interpretations of terms within the domain it covers. One important way of ontology representation therefore uses principles and methodology of databases, exemplified in the STARLab DOGMA Project. A key general resource of information on the Semantic Web, ontologies and ontology languages is www.w3c.org Also industrial players are interested in the opportunities of the Semantic Web, especially as the technology's claimed assets are improved information retrieval performance and better systems interoperability. STARLab's contribution to the ontology world consists mainly of basic research on standards for ontologies, ontology servers, unification and exchange of metadata, ontology content, reusable ontologies and ontology contexts. STARLab is also a member of the AgentLink Special Interest Group on Intelligent Information Agents, as well as a founding member of OntoWeb , another EU Thematic Network on ontology research, where it participates, along with experts from around the world.
DOGMA project is to set up an ontology server in order to assist the gathering and incremental growth of ontologies. The use of the extremely simple structures should -we conjecture- achieve at least a degree of scalability not possible with more complex representations hitherto used in the literature and practice. This extensional approach will naturally lead to very large sets, thereby moving the issue to matters of ontology organization, rather than of representational power or sophistication. Sources of domain-specific knowledge, as opposed to general-purpose lexicons like Wordnet etc., will be formed e.g. by relational database schemas, yielding an activity best described as ontology mining.
Interesting research issues about contextual layers within ontologies arise here as one e.g. needs to separate local jargon from “common knowledge”. Other important sources are numerous existing thesauri and glossaries.
DOGMA-MESS is an ontology capturing methdology introduced by STARLab in 2006. It achieves its overall objective of supporting collaborative communities in defining a relevant common ontology in an evolutionary process in which (core) domain experts and knowledge engineers interact intensively and in a focused way.