This book is based on a thesis I submitted to the National University of Ireland, Galway in pursuance of a Doctorate of Philosophy in February 2011. (I passed!) The thesis was originally titled “Exploiting RDFS and OWL for Integrating Heterogeneous, Large-Scale, Linked Data Corpora”. My supervisor was Axel Polleres, my internal examiner was Stefan Decker and my external examiner was Jim Hendler. In this version I've ironed out a few kinks and made some corrections. I have also abbreviated some parts to maintain a reasonable length.
Returning to work on a thesis again after three years can make one philosophical about the PhD process. I don't wish to get philosophical here except to say that even in the darkest days of my PhD, I was driven by the idea that the Web has not come close to realising its full potential yet, and that perhaps I could influence, in some small but meaningful way, what the Web will look like in ten, twenty or fifty years time. (What will it look like?)
For better or worse, I bet my early twenties on investigating methods by which deductive reasoning can be applied over lots of diverse Web data without making an enormous mess, and this thesis was the result. Automated deductive reasoning techniques can help machines better understand and process the content of the Web, leading to new applications. But needless to say, it was and still is an ambitious goal.
Three years the wiser, the work presented herein has yet to revolutionise the Web. But I learnt a lot from the PhD process. And I would like to think that, in its own unique way, this work demonstrates that the original vision of the Semantic Web, with “altruistic” machines automatically acting upon their “deep understanding” of Web content, is not science fiction. Machines can certainly do useful things by reasoning over Web data. The only question is to what extent such reasoning will be needed by the future Web of ten, twenty or fifty years time.
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