ESWC2024 Trip report

Last week, I joined the 21st edition of the Extended Semantic Web Conference (ESWC2024) held in Heraklion Crete. The 2004 edition was my first scientific conference ever, and I have been going to many editions ever since, so this feels a bit like my ‘home conference’. General Chair Albert Meroño and his team did a great job and it was overall a very nice conference. Paul Groth wrote a very nice trip report here, but I wanted to collect some thoughts and personal highlights in a short blogpost anyway.

The workshops

The workshops overall were very well organized and the ones I joined were well attended. This has been different in previous editions! The PhD symposium was very lively and I had nice chats with PhD candidates during the symposium lunch.

I joined part of the Genesy Workshop, where there were various talks about the potential of generative AI (a definite and unsurprising theme of the conference) and Semantic Web processes and technologies. The paper from Bouchouras et al: LLMs for the Engineering of a Parkinson Disease Monitoring and Alerting Ontology looked at using LLMs for Knowledge Engineering.

I was asked to give a keynote speech at the 2nd edition of the Workshop on Semantic Methods for Events and Stories (SEMMES), at ESWC2024. I talked about work on polyvocality in cultural heritage knowledge graphs. You can find my slides here.

There were very nice talks in the workshop, including the (best paper winning) Let the fallen voussoirs of Notre-Dame de Paris speak: Scientific Narration and 3D Visualization of Virtual Reconstruction Hypotheses and Reasoningfrom Guillem Anais, John Samuel, Gilles Gesquière, Livio De Luca and Violette Abergel that looked at a combination of modelling, argumentation and visualisation for architectural reconstruction.

I then joined the SemDH workshop on Semantic Digital Humanities and its panel discussion in the afternoon, which was really nice. One observation is that many of the talks in SEMMES could have been very interesting for SemDH as well and vice versa. Maybe merging the two would make sense in the future?

The Keynotes

There were three nice keynote speeches, each with its own angle and interesting points.

Elena Simperl gave a somewhat personal history of Knowledge Engineering and the role that machines and humans have in this process. This served as a prelude for the special track on this topic organized by her, Paul Groth and others. Elena called for tools and data for proper benchmarking, introduced the ProVe tool for provenance verification and explored what the roles are of AI (LLM) with respect to Knowledge engineers, domain experts and prompt engineers.

Katariina Kari reflected on 7 Years of Building Enterprise Knowledge Graphs at Zalando and Ikea. This was a very interesting talk about the impact of Knowledge Graphs in industry (she mentioned 7 figure sales increases) and about what works (SKOS, SHACL, OntoClean, Reasoning) and what doesnt work or isnt needed (OWL, Top level ontologies, big data).

Peter Clark of the Allen Institute for AI gave my favorite talk on Structured Reasoning with Language. He discussed their research on Knowledge Graphs and reasoning but also on Belief Graphs, that consist of atomic statements with textual entailment relations. LLMs can be used to ‘reason’ over such Belief Graphs for for example explaining decisions or search results.

Main Conference

The main conference had many interesting talks in all the tracks. The industry track and resource track were quite competitive this year. In terms of quality and number of submissions, they seemed equal to the research track to me this year. Also, the special track on LLMs for Knowledge Engineering was a great success.

I was a bit hesitant with respect to this clear theme of the conference, fearing lots of “we did LLM” talks, but that was not the case at all. Most papers showed genuine interest in the strength and weaknesses of various LLMs and how they can be used in several Semantic web tasks and pipelines. There was clearly a renewed interest in methodologies (Neon, Ontology Engineering 101, Methontology etc ) and how LLMs can fit here. There were for example several talks on how LLMS can be used to generate competency questions: (“Can LLMs Generate Competency Questions? [pdf] by Youssra Rebboud et al. and “The Role of Generative AI in Competency Question Retrofitting” [pdf] by Reham Alharbi et al.”).

Roderick presenting our Resource paper

Roderick van der Weerdt presented our -best Resource paper nominated- OfficeGraph: A Knowledge Graph of Office Building IoT Measurements [pdf]. Roderick did a great job presenting this nice result from the InterConnect project and it was well-received. The winner of the Resource track best paper award was however “PyGraft: Configurable Generation of Synthetic Schemas and Knowledge Graphs at Your Fingertips [pdf] by Nicolas Hubert et al (in my view deservedly so).

The in-use track also had very nice papers, including a quite holistic system to map the German Financial system with knowledge Graphs [pdf] by Markus Schröder et al. Oh, and I won an award 🙂

With more focus on applications, in use, resources, methods for knowledge engineering and of course LLMs, some topics seem to get less attention. Ironically, I missed both Semantics and the Web: Semantics and reasoning did not get a lot of attention in the talks I attended and most applications were about singular knowledge graphs, rather than distributed datasets. Maybe this means that we have solved most of the challenges around these two topics, but possibly it also means that these two elements are less important for actual implementation of Knowledge Graphs. It makes one wonder about the name of the conference though…

With a truly great demo and poster session (near the beach), a great dinner, really nice people and the wonderful surroundings, ESWC2024 was a great success. See you next year in Portoroz!?

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SEMMES keynote: more than one side to the story

I was honored to be asked to give the keynote address for the 2nd edition of the Workshop on Semantic Methods for Events and Stories (SEMMES), at ESWC2024. I talked about work on polyvocality in cultural heritage knowledge graphs:

There is more than one side to every story. This common saying is not only true for works of fiction. In the global data space that is the Semantic Web, views and perspectives from different people, organizations and cultures should be available. I identify three challenges towards such a polyvocal Semantic Web. I will talk about ways to identify various voices, to model different perspectives and to make these perspectives available to end users. I will give examples from the cultural heritage domain, both in how semantic technologies can be of use to make available various perspectives on people, objects and events there but also how insights from the domain can help to shape the polyvocal Semantic Web.

You can find my slides below

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