May 6, 2009

Michel Dumontier on Representing Biochemistry

Michel Dumontier by Tom HeathMichel Dumontier is visiting Manchester this week, he will be doing a seminar on Monday 11th of May,  here are some details for anyone who is interested in attending:

Title: Increasingly Accurate Representation of Biochemistry

Speaker: Michel Dumontier, dumontierlab.com

Time: 14.00, Monday 11th May 2009
Venue: Atlas 1, Kilburn Building, University of Manchester, number 39 on the Google Campus Map

Abstract: Biochemical ontologies aim to capture and represent biochemical entities and the relations that exist between them in an accurate manner. A fundamental starting point is biochemical identity, but our current approach for generating identifiers is haphazard and consequently integrating data is error-prone. I will discuss plausible structure-based strategies for biochemical identity whether it be at molecular level or some part thereof (e.g. residues, collection of residues, atoms, collection of atoms, functional groups) such that identifiers may be generated in an automatic and curator/database independent manner. With structure-based identifiers in hand, we will be in a position to more accurately capture context-specific biochemical knowledge, such as how a set of residues in a binding site are involved in a chemical reaction including the fact that a key nitrogen atom must first be de-protonated. Thus, our current representation of biochemical knowledge may improve such that manual and automatic methods of biocuration are substantially more accurate.

Update: Slides are now available via SlideShare.

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Michel in action at ISWC 2008 from Tom Heath]


  1. Michel Dumontier and Natalia Villanueva-Rosales (2009) Towards pharmacogenomics knowledge discovery with the semantic web Briefings in Bioinformatics DOI:10.1093/bib/bbn056
  2. Doug Howe et al (2008) Big data: The future of biocuration Nature 455, 47-50 doi:10.1038/455047a

October 30, 2008

Congratulations Matthew Horridge!

George Best Genius by sahmeepeeSo, congratulations are due to Matthew Horridge, Bijan Parsia and Ulrike Sattler from The University of Manchester for winning the keenly fought best paper prize at the International Semantic Web Conference [ISWC 2008] in Karlsruhe for their paper “Laconic and Precise Justifications in OWL”. An abstract of the paper is reproduced below:

“A justification for an entailment in an OWL ontology is a minimal subset of the ontology that is sufficient for that entailment to hold. Since justifications respect the syntactic form of axioms in an ontology, they are usually neither syntactically nor semantically minimal. This paper presents two new subclasses of justifications—laconic justifications and precise justifications. Laconic justifications only consist of axioms that do not contain any superfluous “parts”. Precise justifications can be derived from laconic justifications and are characterised by the fact that they consist of flat, small axioms, which facilitate the generation of semantically minimal repairs. Formal definitions for both types of justification are presented. In contrast to previous work in this area, these definitions make it clear as to what exactly “parts of axioms” are. In order to demonstrate the practicability of computing laconic, and hence precise justifications, an algorithm is provided and results from an empirical evaluation carried out on several published ontologies are presented. The evaluation showed that laconic/precise justifications can be computed in a reasonable time for entailments in a range of ontologies that vary in size and complexity. It was found that in half of the ontologies sampled there were entailments that had more laconic/precise justifications than regular justifications. More surprisingly it was observed that for some ontologies there were fewer laconic justifications than regular justifications.”

But what does it all mean? One of the results of this research project has been an explanations plug-in for the Protégé ontology editor, see explanation in OWL at http://owl.cs.manchester.ac.uk. This helps users to understand when and why the reasoning goes all pear-shaped through better explanations than has previously been possible. So this is another step toward making building better ontologies with the Web Ontology Language (OWL) easier and less confusing. Yay!


And the winner is... by guitarfish

  1. Matthew Horridge, Bijan Parsia and Ulrike Sattler (2008). Laconic and Precise Justifications in OWL Lecture Notes in Computer Science, LNCS Volume 5318/-1 The Semantic Web – ISWC 2008 DOI:10.1007/978-3-540-88564-1_21

[Picture of Manchester United player George Best by Sammy, Best paper prize picture by guitarfish]

October 27, 2008

OWL Experiences and Directions (OWLED) 2008

Great Grey Owl by Brian ScottThe Web Ontology Language (OWL) is a language for creating ontologies on the Web. It does exactly what it says on the tin. But what is an ontology? One way to think of it is as a better way of storing data and knowledge. Instead of just capturing and describing data in a databases, ontology languages like OWL provide ways to capture and describe knowledge in a knowledge base. Ontologies can allow more intelligent querying, integration and understanding of data than is possible using a plain old relational database.

Since 2003 developers and users of the Web Ontology Language, abbreviated to OWL (not WOL), have been gathering at a two-day workshop called OWLED (OWL Experiences and Directions). This year the workshop is in Karlsruhe in Germany. The full list of accepted papers is available, as with previous years, this years workshop has a distinctly biological flavour to the proceedings: (more…)

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