Overall Objectives
Research Program
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Highlights of the Year
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Section: Research Program

Ontology-Mediated Query Answering

Querying knowledge bases has become a central problem in knowledge representation and in databases. A knowledge base (KB) is classically composed of a terminological part (metadata, ontology) and an assertional part (facts, data). Queries are supposed to be at least as expressive as the basic queries in databases, i.e., conjunctive queries, which can be seen as existentially closed conjunctions of atoms or as labelled graphs. The challenge is to define good trade-offs between the expressivity of the ontological language and the complexity of querying data in presence of ontological knowledge. Description logics have been so far the prominent family of formalisms for representing and reasoning with ontological knowledge. However, classical description logics were not designed for efficient data querying. On the other hand, database languages are able to process complex queries on huge databases, but without taking the ontology into account. There is thus a need for new languages and mechanisms, able to cope with the ever growing size of knowledge bases in the Semantic Web or in scientific domains.

This problem is related to two other problems identified as fundamental in KR:

A problem generalizing the above described problems, and particularly relevant in the context of multiple data/metadata sources, is querying hybrid knowledge bases. In a hybrid knowledge base, each component may have its own formalism and its own reasoning mechanisms. There may be a common ontology shared by all components, or each component may have its own ontology, with mappings being defined among the ontologies. The question is what kind of interactions between these components and/or what limitations on the languages preserve the decidability of basic problems and if so, a “reasonable”complexity. Note that there are strong connections with the issue of data integration in databases.