Frank van Harmelen - Biography#


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Early in his career, van Harmelen contributed substantially to automated theorem proving (with prof. Alan Bundy, 1980s) and methodologies for building Knowledge-based Systems (with prof. Bob Wielinga, 1990s).

Since 2000, he played a leading role in the development of the Semantic Web, which aims to make data on the web semantically interpretable by machines through formal representations. He was co-PI on the first European Semantic Web project (OnToKnowledge, 1999), which laid the foundations for the Web Ontology Language OWL. OWL has become a worldwide standard, it is in wide commercial use, and has become the basis for an entire research community. Van Harmelen co-authored the “Semantic Web Primer”, the first academic textbook of the field and now in its third edition, which is in worldwide use. Van Harmelen is one of the architects of Sesame, an RDF storage and retrieval engine, which is in wide academic and industrial use with over 200,000 downloads. This work received the 10-year impact award at ISWC 2012 (the International Semantic Web Conference 2012).

In recent years, he pioneered the development of large scale reasoning engines. He was scientific director of the EU-funded Large Knowledge Collider, a platform for distributed computation over semantic graphs with billions of edges. The prize-winning work with his student Jacopo Urbani has improved the state of the art by two orders of magnitude.

The size, dynamicity, noise and heterogeneity of the Semantic Web has motivated work on non-standard inference including inconsistency-tolerance, ontology debugging and approximate reasoning.

An application area of specific interest has been medical knowledge representation, where the research group of van Harmelen succeeded in providing a formalisation of a complete medical guideline (Dutch national breast-cancer guideline) in dynamic temporal logic. This group was the first to succeed in using interactive theorem-proving to derive formal properties of a medical guideline.
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