ISWS 2018

In the first week of July I participated the first edition of the International Semantic Web Research Summer School (ISWS) in Bertinoro, Italy. It was an exciting event, where I had a lot of fun and learned also a lot! Continue reading for the full travel report.

About the summer school

This first edition of the International Semantic Web Research Summer School (ISWS) was held in July 1 until July 7 in the University Residency Center in Bertinoro, Italy. The Residency Center is basically an old castle used for conferences and training courses and is a very nice venue. The center also provides hotel-ish bedrooms with bathrooms. 113 people applied for the summer school, from which 60 students were selected for participation! 73% were PhD students, 17% master students and 10% postdocs and researchers from mostly France, Italy and Germany, but also a lot of other Countries. Among other, I met people from a university in Chile (which are originally from Cuba), the United States, the UK and Denmark. The gender balance could be better, but we at least reached a 63% to 37% ratio.

Street sign to the castle

The summer school aimed to teach basics of the semantic web in the form of tutorials, keynotes and so called in-depth-pills. Furthermore there was a bigger group work, in which each team worked on a research topic with a paper and presentation as outcome. Overall the summer school aimed to model and represent a researcher’s life in one week, including team work, socializing and deadlines!

Overview

I’m gonna give now a short description of each program point with further details later on. After an introduction of the school and the tutors, two poster session were held, where each participant presented his/her research. In the course of the week different presentations (keynotes, tutorials, in-depth-pills) regarding the Semantic Web were given. There was also a bit of room in the schedule to work in so called Research Task Forces, small teams led by an tutor, to investigate in one perspective on the theme “Linked Open Data validity”. Besides socializing in the form of team work and coffee-break conversations, there was also a gala dinner with small party, an excursion to Rimini and things like slide karaoke 😉

For the lazy reader I can already conclude, that it was a lot of fun and that I learned a lot! You can make yourself a picture if you have a look at the Twitter hashtag #isws2018 to see what happened during the week and see some conclusions from the participants.

The coffee machine at the cafeteria

Poster Session

Well, it was a poster session, not much to say about that. I saw a lot of interesting work. Integrating uncertainty in the Semantic Web Stack, a Web-based heritage platform built on Linked Data, Using machine-learning for Ontology matching and much, much more. An award for best posters went to Maximilian Zocholl, Piere-Henri Paris and Valentina Carriero, Congratulations! I was lucky to receive an honorably mention for creativity for my Poster, thank you!

The poster session

Talks

Keynotes were given by Enrico Motta about Data Analytics, Marta Sabou about Rigour and Relevance with Design Science, and Sebastian Rudolph about a Logician’s view of the Semantic Web. The keynotes covered more high level concepts and lessons learned. They were very inspiring and gave a good perspective on a researcher’s life. Additionally three tutorials were given, which focused more on concrete techniques. In the tutorial given by Maria-Esther Vidal and Sebastian Rudolph, we learned about the basics of Reasoning and SPARQL query execution. Claudia d’Amato and Michael Cochez talked about Machine Learning. John Domingue talked about Blockchain and decentralization (Ruben Verborgh was supposed to give the talk as well, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it to the summer school).

As a third kind-of talk, the summer school offered so called in-depth-pills. Aldo Gangemi talked about ontology design patterns, Marieke van Erp about Natural Language Processing and Marta Sabou about crowdsourcing. Overall, each talk gave a lot of insights and the numerous questions from the audience were answered.

A slide from Marta Sabou's talk about crowdsourcing

Research Task Force work

This was probably the most interesting part of the summer school. Based on a bigger subject, which was Linked Open Data Validity, each tutor presented research questions covering his/her point of view on the subject. Participants could indicate preferences regarding tutors and then Research Task Forces (RTF’s) were built. The assignment of participants to tutors took place after dinner at the evening of the second day. Each RTF was assigned a name, following a scientifically sound methodology, a speaking hat!

Assigning Research Task Force names with the magical hat Thus we ended up with the Teams

  • Hufflepuff (John Domingue), validity in a decentralized disintermediated world
  • Ravenclaw (Harald Sack), how does validity relate to context? (my task force)
  • Gryffindor (Aldo Gangemi), validity patterns and how to establish metrics
  • Mordor (Claudia d’Amato), can validity be formalized? learning validity
  • The 42’s (Marieke Van Erp), validity for incomplete information or fluid definitions
  • The Deloreans (Valentina Presutti), validity and common-sense
  • the Jedis (Maria-Esther Vidal), validity in SPARQL federated querying
  • Dragons (Sebastian Rudolph), logical LOD validity
  • Hobbits (Michael Cochez), detect anomalies with e.g. Machine Learning

Each RTF had to prepare an 8-page research report, a 10 minutes presentation and a one minute funny video. The best presentation was awarded to the Hufflepuffs and the Deloreans! Again the Hufflepuffs were awarded with the best research report, this time together with the Jedis.

Social Events

An important part of the summer school was fun! To achieve that we had multiple events like slide karaoke (40 seconds time to present a random power point slide), dinner in Bertinoro, an excursion to Rimini with subsequent dinner at the beach and a Gala dinner with DJ and dancefloor. Usually one could also find multiple groups and/or tutors in a close-by gelateria or bar in the evening.

Sight Seing in Rimini - Excursion

My Conclusion

Go there! I haven’t been to other summer schools, but I’ve heard that they can be boring. But this one is an exception! The Semantic Web Community is quite small, here you will meet your peers, people you will work together with, see on conferences and so on. As stated above, I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. But notice, if you go to Italy, bring a power adapter.

Evening view from the balcony

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