I recently attended the 2010 Semantic Web Workshop in Santa Fe, hosted by the SSWAP project and iPlant, at St. John’s College. This was a two-day workshop, June 7-8, introducing semantic web technologies and applications to biological data and service integration. The first day was scheduled to be a whirlwind overview of semantic web technologies, beginning with a lecture on the foundations of web logic and reasoning in classic formal logic and moving through RDF, RDFS, and OWL. However, air travel problems led me to miss the entire first day of the workshop. Fortunately Damian Gessler, the workshop organizer, provided me with all the slides for the first day upon my arrival, and I was able to somewhat catch up before day 2. These slides are really a great overview of semantic web technologies and will be a useful resource.
The second day focused on applications to biological data and web services. A discussion on “taxonomic intelligence” was particularly illuminating. It provided an example of how different communities can share a set of identifiers for species, for example, yet provide their own set of statements about the taxonomy relating those species. Each community can draw conclusions relevant to its preferred taxonomy using data associated with the same species.
The afternoon focused on the SSWAP project, led by Damian Gessler. SSWAP is a protocol which uses OWL documents to describe the inputs and outputs relevant to a web service. Interestingly, users of these web services would submit their input in the very same OWL model used for service descriptions.
In Phenoscape, we are using OBO ontologies rather than RDF and OWL and storing our ontological annotations in OBD, a datastore tailored for OBO technologies which provides its own very effective reasoner. However, this workshop provided a great opportunity to stay up to date with semantic web standards and explore how to make our data compatible with and part of the global semantic web. In addition, St. John’s College was a great meeting location – it is a small college with a wonderful natural landscape in the hills outside of Santa Fe.