On the Foundations of Data Interoperability and Semantic Search on the Web

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This dissertation studies the problem of facilitating semantic search across disparate ontologies that are developed by different organizations. There is tremendous potential in enabling users to search independent ontologies and discover knowledge in a serendipitous fashion, i.e., often completely unintended by the developers of the ontologies. The main difficulty with such search is that users generally do not have any control over the naming conventions and content of the ontologies. Thus terms must be appropriately mapped across ontologies based on their meaning. The meaning-based search of data is referred to as semantic search, and its facilitation (aka semantic interoperability) then requires mapping between ontologies.

In relational databases, searching across organizational boundaries currently involves the difficult task of setting up a rigid information integration system. Linked Data representations more flexibly tackle the problem of searching across organizational boundaries on the Web. However, there exists no consensus on how ontology mapping should be performed for this scenario, and the problem is open. We lay out the foundations of semantic search on the Web of Data by comparing it to keyword search in the relational model and by providing effective mechanisms to facilitate data interoperability across organizational boundaries.

We identify two sharply distinct goals for ontology mapping based on real-world use cases. These goals are: (i) ontology development, and (ii) facilitating interoperability. We systematically analyze these goals, side-by-side, and contrast them. Our analysis demonstrates the implications of the goals on how to perform ontology mapping and how to represent the mappings.

We rigorously compare facilitating interoperability between ontologies to information integration in databases. Based on the comparison, class matching is emphasized as a critical part of facilitating interoperability. For class matching, various class similarity metrics are formalized and an algorithm that utilizes these metrics is designed. We also experimentally evaluate the effectiveness of the class similarity metrics on real-world ontologies. In order to encode the correspondences between ontologies for interoperability, we develop a novel W3C-compliant representation, named skeleton.