For the third year running, the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KRR) group of the CSIR Meraka Institute held a Masters ontology school from 19-30 July 2010, known this year as MOWS 2010 (Masters Ontology Winter School). The event was attended by approximately 20 people from the universities of North West, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch as well as the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano and CSIR Meraka Institute.
Participants at MOWS2010;
Dr Marijke Keet (front, middle) is a visiting researcher from the the Free University of Bozen-Bolzan.
Dr Tommie Meyer (back, middle) leads the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning research group
Dr Marijke Keet (of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzan) was responsible for the week-long course, held from 26-30 July, and titled, Introduction to ontology engineering, with emphasis on semantic web technologies. She also participated in the Masters ontology school in 2008 during which she taught one tutorial.
Keet's lecturing contribution and visits to the CSIR are the outcome of active collaboration with the KRR group on two projects: The European Union Framework 7 (EU FP7) Net2 project , 'Network for Enabling Networked Knowledge', and the 'Technologies for Conceptual Modelling and Intelligent Query Formulation' project within the Executive Programme of Scientific and Technological Co-Operation between the Italian Republic and South Africa (funded by both the Italian ministry and the National Research Foundation). Apart from Italy and South Africa, Keet has taught in Cuba in Spanish; she also speaks Dutch (her mother language), English (with an Irish accent), Italian and German.
She explains the value of ontologies, "Ontologies are particularly useful in computer-to-computer interactions. If one puts in search criteria when planning a holiday, for example, the query function engages with different services behind the scenes. These services must speak the same language to ensure meaningful coordination - ontologies make this possible.
"Moreover, ontologies also offer additional methods of discovery in the researchers' toolbox. By using a formal representation of a scientific theory, and applying automated reasoning, novel biological information can be - and has been - found. In the pharmacological domain, this is used to narrow down by orders of magnitude the number of candidate molecules with desirable properties for further research and development." Controlled vocabularies or simple ontologies used in conjunction with annotation, make it possible to efficiently search and retrieve music and art.
With Keet representing Europe in South Africa, Dr Tommie Meyer who heads the KRR group, left right after MOWS 2010 for a research visit in German. He explains, "As an Eramus Mundus grantholder, I received mobility funding to spend three months over two years at the Knowledge-Based Systems Group at RWTH Aachen.
There are other links with RWTH Aachen, Meyer notes, "One of our ex-MSc students, Gavin Rens, spent a semester in Aachen in 2008. He has since finished his MSc (with distinction), and has now started a PhD, co-supervised by one of the members of the Aachen group who is currently at the University of Cape Town and me."
* Keet was joined as lecturer by Professor Gerhard van Huyssteen of the CSIR Meraka Institute, as well as KRR staff and students. Beverages were sponsored by the Center for Software Engineering, University of South Africa.