[Profile picture of Ruben Verborgh]

Ruben Verborgh

Research challenges for 2019

Following the curiosity-inducing post by my colleague Pieter Colpaert, I’m listing some of the questions I’d like to learn more about in 2019. There’s much more in here than anyone can reasonably answer in a year, but these should provide food for thought for the next couple of months.

Querying the Web

This one is actually my Big Question for the years to come, but it doesn’t hurt to state it explicitly:

In particular, I’m interested in small data rather than Big Data:

Querying data in decentralized networks

The following questions are inspired by the Solid project, where people store data in their personal data pods instead of inside applications:

Since querying decentralized networks takes time, the following also become important:

In particular, I am interested in reviving link-traversal-based querying. Instead of blind traversal, we should leverage knowledge about the data shape and structure.

Facilitating Linked Data application development

In my 2018 blog post, I argue that the developer experience is crucial to accelerate the creation of user-facing apps, which are a major pain point of the Semantic Web. Rather than hand-wavingly considering this a trivial engineering matter, we should look into new abstractions that hide complexity. Think beyond JSON-LD.

Making personal data linked

I see the GDPR legislation as a godsend for innovation, and a way to break the Semantic Web’s chicken-and-egg problem for personal data. Under GDPR, we can contact any company or organization and retrieve our data in a structured format, giving us plenty of eggs to work with.

Read–write public and private Linked Data

The main Linked Data has success stories are about reading public/open Linked Data. These are important stories, but the opportunities for Linked Data extend far beyond them. Tim Berners-Lee has always called for a Read–Write Web, and such a Web contains public data, private data, and everything in between.

Personalized Linked Data experiences

Finally, we need to rethink the interaction between people and data. Currently, we follow a strong question–answer paradigm, where—if lucky—we get what we ask for. I am interested in personal agent/assistant interactions, where people are given the information they need, when they need it. This is also an alternative approach to latency concealment, in that we predict needs earlier and thus have more time to find answers.

Possible application domains

I approach the above problems from a technology perspective, so I am not bound to a specific application domain. That said, we have specific expertise and/or particular interest in these domains:

Happy to engage in new collaborations within the above domains or to learn about new ones.

Want to work on these topics?

In addition to motivating my PhD students to work on the above topics (as well as to suggest their own), there are plenty of opportunities to get involved:

Contact me to find opportunities to get involved!