WhatIf: Answering "What if..." questions for Ontology Authoring

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Computing Science


We have a richness of data about numerous aspects of our activities, yet these
data are only any use when we know what they are, agree upon what they are and
how they relate to each other. Semantic descriptions of data, the means by
which we can achieve these aims, are widely used to help exploit data in
industry, academia and at home. One way of providing such meaning or semantics
for data is through "ontologies", yet these ontologies can be hard to build,
especially for the very people that are expert in the fields whose knowledge
is being captured but who are not experienced in the specialised "modelling" field.

In the "what if...?" project we look at
the problems of creating ontologies using the Web
Ontology Language (OWL). With OWL logical forms, computers can
deduce knowledge that is only
implied within the statements made by the modeller. So any statement made
by a modeller can have a dramatic effect on what is implied.
These implications can be both "good" and "bad" in terms of the aims of the
modeller. Consequently, a
modeller is always asking themself "what if...?" questions as they model a field
of interest. Such a question might be "what happens if I say that a planet
must be orbiting a star?" or "what happens if I add in this date/time

The aim of the "what if...?" project is to
build a dialogue system allowing a person building an ontology
to ask such questions and get
meaningful answers. This requires getting the computer to determine what
the consequences of a change in the ontology would be and getting it to
present these consequences in a meaningful way. To do a good job,
the system will have to understand something about what the person is trying
to do and what sorts of results will be most interesting to them. For this,
we need to understand more about
how ontologists model a domain and interact with tools; be able to model the
dialogues between a human and the authoring system; achieve responsive
auttomated reasoning that can provide the dialogue system with the information
it nees to create that dialogue.

Planned Impact

Making consensus knowledge about a domain available to its community of users plays an increasingly important
part of both economic activity, scientific research and everyday life. Ontologies are best created by the people that
know the field, rather than so-called knowledge engineers. However, current ontology authoring environments impose a
high entrance barrier in terms of technical understanding. In particular, it is very hard for an author to envisage
the possible consequences of adding or changing an ontology axiom. At present, "what if...?" questions cannot be
answered by the tools used to aid modelling and such help is necessary if scientists and system developers in all areas
of commerce and academia are to be able to more effectively model their ontologies and hence more effectively exploit their data.

The "what if...?" project will increase understanding of the ontology authoring process, the use of natural dialogue
models and responsive ontology reasoning. This will directly affect academic disciplines such as Computer Science and
Computational Linguistics. However, the tools that it produces will also have indirect impact on other fields and
organisations that hold data, by enabling the easier construction of higher-quality ontologies. As our letters of support
(and the people willing to serve on our advisory board) show, we can expect impact of this kind in a range of areas of
government, industry and research.
Description It appears that ontology authoring can be made easier by computationally exploiting the presuppositions inherent in Competency Questions.

We have created an approximative DL reasoner that works far faster than its predecessors. We have conducted and published a controlled experiment which confirms that users understand the feedback produced by our system correctly. This is a first step towards proving that our approach to ontology authoring can work.
Exploitation Route We're developing a new ontology authoring interface, some aspects of which will have been tested. Many other aspects are yet to be tested.

The work is potentially applicable to all the areas below, as long as they have complex terminological information available in computer-readable form.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other

URL http://www.abdn.ac.uk/ncs/departments/computing-science/what-if-389.php
Description IBM Italy has started to experiment with stream reasoning techniques delivered by the project. iSOCO (Spain) are looking at our handling of Competency Questions to see it can be scaled up to a full Question Answering system.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic

Description 12th International Reasoning Web Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A training event focussing on the role of reasoning in the semantic web. For example, participants received extensive training in the use of stet-of-the art ontology software (PROTEGE and extensions). Software developed in the WhatIf project was presented and tested at this event, giving us valuable data on which to base further developments of the software.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/rr-2016/rw-summer-school-2016/
Description DemoFest (3 instalments: one in 2013 and two in 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Suggestions for developing our demonstrator further.

Participants from industry expressed interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
URL http://www.sicsa.ac.uk/knowledge-exchange/industry-collaboration/demofest/
Description Presentation of WhatIf interface at SICSA Demofest in Glasgow 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact This talk has contributed to the dissemination of our ideas for innovative knowledge authoring interfaces.

Useful comments were obtained concerning the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the interface.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description WhatIf presented at DEMOfest North 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Yuan Ren demonstrated ideas from the WhatIf project at the SICSA DEMOfest North, Robert Gordon University, February 2014.

Exposure to people who are actually using formal ontologies. I cannot think of any particular measurable impacts from this event that are worth reporting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014