- Maturing Semantic Web foundations
- Applying Semantic Web technology to core challenges of Information Systems
My major research interest is Semantics in Business Information Systems, especially the use of ontologies for advancement in the automation of business processes. Ontologies in my understanding are community contracts about a representation of a domain of discourse. Representation in here includes (1) formal parts that can be used for machine reasoning, and (2) informal parts like natural language descriptions and multimedia elements that help humans establish, maintain, and renew consensus about the meaning of concepts. In my opinion, both aspects of ontologies are equally important, and I watch the current dominance of the formal aspects of ontologies in academic research with unease.
My contributions address the following two main dimensions of using ontologies for business information systems:
1. Maturing Semantic Web foundations, so that they become compatible with the real world complexity and scale.
This includes four main branches of research:
1.1 Ontology Engineering
Methodologies for and prototypes of industry-strength business ontologies, e.g. the gen/tax methodology for deriving ontologies from existing hierarchical standards and taxonomies (UNSPSC, eCl@ss, ...) and eClassOWL, the first serious attempt of building an ontology for e-business applications; and in general advancing the state of the art in e-business data and knowledge engineering, including metrics for content.
1.2 Community-driven Ontology Building
Since my PhD thesis I have been trying to hand back control over the evolution of ontologies to the user community, including semi-automated approaches and OntoWiki, a Wiki-centric ontology building environment.
In this segment also fall quantitative comparisons of community-centric and engineering-based ontology building.
1.3 Economic Aspects of Ontology Building and Usage
Building ontologies consumes resources, and in an economic setting, these resources are justified and will be spend (by rational economic actors, at least) only if the effort needed to establish and keep alive a consensual representation of a domain of discourse is outweighed by the business gain, either in terms of cost, added value, or strategic dimensions, e.g. process agility. This research branch is rather young and underdeveloped, but an important piece of understanding and fueling the use of ontologies in business applications.
1.4 Ontology Management Systems
The use of Semantic Web technology beyond toy applications requires ontology management infrastructure for editing and browsing, versioning, mapping and merging, and ontology mediation, that remains cognitively adequate and sufficiently performant for large ontologies. I chair the the Ontology Management Working Group (OMWG), in which we are trying to develop a consistent framework of requirements plus prototypes of ontology management infrastructure that meets this demand.
2. Applying Semantic Web technology to core challenges of Information Systems in order to realize and evaluate the business benefit, and to identify the open research challenges. I currently focus on three specific application domains:
2.1 Semantics-supported Business Process Management, i.e. the idea to mechanize Business Process Management by using Semantic Web techniques and especially Semantic Web Services. There is a first vision paper and a Working Group being founded.
2.2 Semantic Web services, especially WSMO/WSML/WSMX, i.e. the use of ontologies and related technology for the automation of Web services discovery, composition, execution, and monitoring. I am member of the Web Service Modeling Ontology (WSMO) Working Group and project manager of the EU-funded Integrated Project "DIP - Data, Information, and Process Integration with Semantic Web Services" (FP6-507483). This research direction is complemented by work on using the idea of persistent publication, as an alternative to the predominant message exchange paradigm of today's Web services. See work on Triplespace Computing.
2.3 Electronic Markets and Electronic Procurement, including a reference framework for ontology-supported electronic procurement and an analysis of the true complexity of business matchmaking.