Humbly Report: Sean Bechhofer

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And the Winner is…

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A Big Cheque

The likelyhood of me getting to present the Oscars is rather low, but I did get to say those famous words during the “awards ceremony” for the Semantic Web Challenge last month at the International Semantic Web Conference in Sydney.

The Challenge is a yearly event, sponsored by Elsevier that invites researchers and developers to showcase applications and systems that are being built with emerging semantic technologies. Now in its 11th year, the Challenge doesn’t define a specific task, data set or application domain, but instead sets out a number of criteria that systems should meet.

Candidates were invited to demonstrate their systems during the posters and demos session on the first evening of the conference. A panel of judges then selected a set of finalists who gave short presentations during two dedicated conference sessions. The winners were then chosen following a lively debate between the judges. And so, without further ado, to the golden envelope…….

The winners of the Open Track in 2013 were Yves Raimond and Tristan Ferne for their system The BBC World Service Archive Prototype. Yves featured throughout ISWC2014, giving an excellent keynote to the COLD workshop and also presenting a paper featuring related work in the Semantic Web In Use Track. The winning system combined a number of technologies including text extraction and audio analysis in order to tag archive broadcasts from the World Service. Crowdsourcing (with over 2,000 users) is then used to clean and validate the resulting tags. Visualisations based on tags extracted from live news feeds allow journalists to quickly locate relevant content.

Second place in the Open Track went to Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsburg, James Melton, Robert Shaffer, Juan F. Sequeda and Daniel Miranker for Constitute: The World’s Constitutions to Read, Search and Compare. Constitute provides access to the text of over 700 constitutions from countries across the world. As Juan Sequeda told us in his excellent presentation during the session, although this may seem like a niche application, each year on average 30 constitutions are amended and 5 are replaced. Drafting constitutions requires significant effort, and providing systematic access to existing examples will be of great benefit. One of the particularly appealling aspects of Constitute was that it demonstrated societal impact — this is an application that could potentially change lives. An interesting technical aspect was that while building the ontology that drives the system, a domain expert made use of an the pre-existing FAO Geopolitical Ontology (without being explicitly guided to do so). Thus we see an example of interlinking between, and reuse of, terminological resources which is one of the promises of the Semantic Web.

Joint third prizes went to B-hist: Entity-Centric Search over Personal Web Browsing History and STAR-CITY: Semantic Traffic Analytics and Reasoning for CITY. The latter was a system developed by IBM’s Smarter Cities Technology Centre in Dublin and highlighted the fact that the Challenge attracts entries from both academic and industrial research centres. A Big Data prize was awarded to Fostering Serendipity through Big Linked Data, a system that integrates the Linked Cancer Genome Atlas dataset with PubMed literature.

All the winning entries will have the opportunity to submit papers to a Special Issue of the Journal of Web Semantics.

This was my first year co-chairing the challenge (with Andreas Harth of KIT) and I was impressed by both the quality and variety of the submissions. The well attended presentation sessions also show a keen interest in the challenge from the community. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the submissions for ISWC2014 in Trentino!

ISWC in Sydney was also memorable due to the Semantic Web Jam Session featuring live RDF triple generation (that man Yves again), but that’s a whole other story……


Written by Sean Bechhofer

November 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm

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Future Everything

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Future Everything 2011

Future Everything 2011

I attended some of the ideas sessions at FutureEverything in Manchester last month (thanks to @julianlstar). I particularly enjoyed the session on Linked Data/Linked Stories. Chris Taggart opened with some reflections about data that’s been released and is available on Openly Local. His comment was that a few years ago, the presence of this data would have been a story Council spends X million. Now, it’s just data, and the stories are about teasing information out of that data. He also highlighted cases where data had been redacted (due, I believe, to there being personal information involved). However, in that list there are some big ticket items — £50K for hospitality and trading services. Is there a story here….? With this move to opening up the data, the omission of information can become as important as the inclusion.

Martin Belam and David Higgerson also gave interesting position statements, but it was something that Paul Bradshaw said that stuck with me most. He described the steps in data journalism as being:

  • Compile
  • Clean
  • Connect
  • Communicate

Communication here is in particular about how one visualises the information and provides something that is somehow personalised — we can sometimes lose the notion of the individual when considering masses of numbers. Higgerson also talked about the importance of narrative in presenting a story — plotting and charting data is not enough, and context is key (but then that’s the case for any statistical treatment I guess). The thing that struck me here was that this was pretty much the same steps that we go through as scientists conducting research. When writing papers, it’s often the story or narrative that’s the hard thing to get right. Maybe this should be unexpected — after all data journalism and scientific research shouldn’t be that far apart, but it’s nice when these connections pop up.

Other sessions that I found interesting were on hacking culture and Sue Thomas talking about Creative Truancy, although I’m that keen on bringing too much cyberspace into the natural world. One of the reasons I like being on top of a mountain or under the sea is precisely because I’m disconnected from other things, and the view/fish/whatever can command all my attention.

Food for Art

On the arts side, one piece that I particularly enjoyed The Food of Art. A collection of posters that made me laugh out loud — and that’s always a sign of good art for me! It seems there are quite a lot of calories in a dead deer…..

Written by Sean Bechhofer

June 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

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