Fostering User Involvement in Ontology Alignment and Alignment Evaluation

Abstract: The abundance of data at our disposal empowers data-driven applications and decision making. The knowledge captured in the data, however, has not been utilized to full potential, as it is only accessible to human interpretation and data are distributed in heterogeneous repositories.Ontologies are a key technology unlocking the knowledge in the data by providing means to model the world around us and infer knowledge implicitly captured in the data. As data are hosted by independent organizations we often need to use several ontologies and discover the relationships between them in order to support data and knowledge transfer. Broadly speaking, while ontologies provide formal representations and thus the basis, ontology alignment supplies integration techniques and thus the means to turn the data kept in distributed, heterogeneous repositories into valuable knowledge.While many automatic approaches for creating alignments have already been developed, user input is still required for obtaining the highest-quality alignments. This thesis focuses on supporting users during the cognitively intensive alignment process and makes several contributions.We have identified front- and back-end system features that foster user involvement during the alignment process and have investigated their support in existing systems by user interface evaluations and literature studies. We have further narrowed down our investigation to features in connection to the, arguably, most cognitively demanding task from the users’ perspective—manual validation—and have also considered the level of user expertise by assessing the impact of user errors on alignments’ quality. As developing and aligning ontologies is an error-prone task, we have focused on the benefits of the integration of ontology alignment and debugging.We have enabled interactive comparative exploration and evaluation of multiple alignments at different levels of detail by developing a dedicated visual environment—Alignment Cubes—which allows for alignments’ evaluation even in the absence of reference alignments.Inspired by the latest technological advances we have investigated and identified three promising directions for the application of large, high-resolution displays in the field: improving the navigation in the ontologies and their alignments, supporting reasoning and collaboration between users.

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