The First UK Ontology Network Workshop

We have just had what I thought was a successful first full meeting of the UK Ontology Network in Manchester. The idea was put together at a meeting organised by Pierre Grenon and Anthony Galton at the Open University on 30 April 2010. At the 12 April 2012 meeting, organised by James Malone and i, we had 100 people registered and about 80 people attending. This itself was a good thing to see – gathering 100 people shows a bibrant ontology community in the UK. One of the best things about the meeting was that we had people in the audience from many communities that use ontologies, not just my home community of biomedicine. we had people from biomedicine, music, geography, government, the national archives, the BBC and the NHS (and probably some I’ve left out). We also just had a lot of people doing stuff and, I’m pleased to say, talking about putting applications together using OWL and automated reasoners, particularly ELK. We had clusters of 3 people giving 5 minute talks with a little bit of discussion and we then had some software demos after lunch. We then just had a long session of hanging around talking – which was good.

We used the hashtag UKON2012 on twitter (which was active) and our UKON GooglePlus page. We’ll put the presentations up on the UKON site and prepare some other materials from the Tweets, GooglePlus pages and so on, such as issues, capabilities, and themes of work.

Here I’ll just talk a bit about a few of the talks:

Tom graham’s (BBC) talk about using linked data to generate the BBC’s Olympics pages showed an impressive process and its result. A light weight publishing process lets the journalists write their piece, tag it and push it through a pipeline that allows aggregation and rich inter-linking of the BBC’s Olympic content. the take home message was that tom reckons that the Web site couldn’t have come into being in the timely fashion it has without the use of Semantic Web technologies – a sign of increasing maturity.

Phil Lord’s (Newcastle) presentation on the Knowledge Blog’s publication process generated lots of comments during the breaks – using another light-weight publication process to gather light metadata and semantics about the page, its contents and the references. It was a nice show and Phfil’s video should be looked at…

Barry Smith (NCBO) said that most of the content on BioPortal was “crap” and that there were only four good ontologies in the world. All of this was in support of the proposal that lots of gtraining is needed – a reasonable point, though one that is just true. One of the “good” ontologies he named as coming from Aberystwyth (Larisa Solditova was in the audience and asked the question to identify the four). this leaves 3 ontologies and there was some speculation about their identity – we know Barry likes the FMA – so let’s count it as one. This leaves only two other good ontologies in the world. this means that at least all but two of the OBO ontologies are “crap” and presumably contribute some of the “crap” to BioPortal. Presumably, then almost all the OBO Foundry ontologies are “crap” too.

Dave De roure (Oxford) introduced the audience to semantic music. A lot of music data is getting out there as linked data, but with some semantics. Dave told of a music and linked data workshop he set up, expecting 20 participants he got 200. I’d interpret this as an appetite for geting stuff out there and exposed for use. One of the jobs of this UKON community is to get it out there in a form that optimises its usefulness and semantic content. Dave also mentioned work that Sean Bechhofer, Kevin Page, he and I had recently started on an OWL knowledgebase of the outputs of digital analysis of all the songs on Sargeant Pepper’s to give lists of the segmentgs of the songs for query and exploration. Dave ended by the pointting out that the music sector is far along the digitisation and tagging route and that other disciplines could well look to it for lessons.

Ian Horrocks (Oxford) gave a good overview of work at Oxford that included a bit of retrospective. One of the good things that Ian ended on was a lot of collaboration and interest from industry – this is good to see and is an indication of maturity. One of the winners of the day was eLK – the fast OWL EL reasoner – that was mentioned several times as enabling work, and we’re seeing on-line applications using OWL reasoners – which is a good thing and more indications of maturity.

Jeremy Rogers (NHS) gave an entertaining talk about the use of SNOMED in the NHS. He mentioned 30 million annottations of patient records with SNOMED terms as a result of visits to family doctors by people in the UK. He also mentioned the worrying aspect of annotation quality and quality assurance in general – another theme of the day. The under-annotation and mis-annotation was a bit frightening and plays to the need to develop tools and techniques (as well as the ontological/terminological underpinnings that will give better annotations/codings, not only from SNOMED by NHS people, but by all users of ontologies.

Throughout the day there was a call for tooling to support the use of ontologies in the community. There’s a need to enable thedevelopment and use of OWL ontologies with the same level of sophistication as we have for handling the programme code for software applications. Though this wasn’t explicitly mentioned, we are not replete with OWL tools. We have Protege as (probably) the kmost widely used OWL environment – many people depend on it – and it’s funding hangs by a slender thread. The community of which the UKON meeting is evidence, needs to come together to make sure that there is not only a good tool chain, but that the vital elements of that chain are both secure and have safety in numbers. As a community we should stop thinking that the tools are the responsibility of others and help, by whatever means, to make the tools happen. That this UKON meeting can gather 100 registrants with relative ease from within the UK (and a couple from the US) shows that there is a vibrant community from the fundamental of representation language and automated reasoning to a wide range of application domains.

There wil be mmore UKON meetings…

2 Responses to “The First UK Ontology Network Workshop”

  1. Samuel Croset Says:

    nice summary

  2. MRR Says:

    I think that this quote from Barry Smith summarizes well why the OBO Foundry does not fill its stated purpose for the broader ontology / database / curation community. Demeaning people’s work and setting impossible criteria of success is not constructive.

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