Ivan’s private site

April 26, 2007

Stavanger, oil, and the Semantic Web

Filed under: Semantic Web,Work Related — Ivan Herman @ 12:53

I had the pleasure of participating at a conference in Stavanger, Norway, called the “Norwegian Semantic Web Days” (the programme is on-line, but the presentations not yet).

Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway and, as such, one of the major places for oil-related R&D in the World. So it was quite natural to hear a lot about that industry. One interesting aspect was to see how “familiar” the problems were in terms of data management, integration, etc. By now most of the general Semantic Web community knows about the interest of the Drug Discovery and Health Care professionals for the Semantic Web; well, some of the statements in the oil-related presentations could have been mechanically translated yielding a, say, Drug Discovery presentation! But the good thing (from our point of view:-) is that this community realizes that. I would not be surprised if the oil (and gas) exploration industry would become one of the next “big” application areas of the Semantic Web in the years to come. And this is all the more possible because (just like the health related communities) this community has worked already for years on defining major ontologies for their need, have worked on systems exploiting those, and some of these ontologies are now being converted (or exported) to OWL, too. Actually, one of the participants (Frank Chum, from Chevron) announced an initiative (that should start in the coming months) called “Open Oilfield Ontology Repository (O3R)”, backed by companies like Chevron, Exxon, or Total, and whose goal will be to collect public OWL ontologies in that domain and make it freely available to the industry at large. Good to know about that…

Actually, there were some presentations coming from the health care and drug discovery, too, in some ways to show an example. Susie Stephens, from Eli Lilly, gave a nice overview of some of the issues, and Barry Smith gave a nice presentation on the OBO foundry: a collection of “bio” related ontologies. The interesting point about this OBO foundry is not what it contains (although that is of course important!) but the social process that gives some sort of a “quality check” on what can or cannot be included in the foundry. It is clearly a matter of discussion whether such a check should be used or not, but the OBO foundry gives at least a good example for what such a set of principles could be in case a community decides to adopt one.

There were of course a bunch of nice presentations and application examples from other areas, too. Too many to list here. Let me just pick one, simply because it suddenly connected me to my former life in computer graphics: the Aim@Shape portal collects all kinds of semantically annotated data sets for computer graphics researchers and developers (scanned surface data, virtual humans, etc) and provides good search tools based on RDF and OWL. I was thrilled to see some of my old colleagues and friends reappearing around that project…

As for my role: I gave a tutorial on the first day. Quite exceptionally it turned out that I had a bit more time than I’d anticipated, which made it possible to go a bit more slowly and engage in discussions with the audience. My tutorial was followed by Ian Horrocks’; and because we synchronized well in advance, we were successful in making these two tutorials really complementary. Hopefully some people went back home knowing a bit more than when they arrived to Stavanger…



  1. Alas, your tutorial link (http://www.w3.org/2007/Talks/0223-Stavanger-IH/) is 404ing.

    Comment by Damian — April 26, 2007 @ 16:09

  2. Oops, sorry about that. It should have been http://www.w3.org/2007/Talks/0423-Stavanger-IH/. I have changed in the text.

    Sorry again…


    Comment by Ivan Herman — April 26, 2007 @ 16:12

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