A brief talk with Victor De Boer

March 27, 2017

What is your current research focus?

My research focuses on the opportunities at the intersection of Knowledge Representation, Information Extraction and Human Computer-Interaction. In particular, I am interested in how we can enrich knowledge graphs for specific domains by integrating automatic methods (Multimedia Analysis, Natural Language Processing) with human-centered techniques such as crowdsourcing or nichesourcing. I work on these challenges in broadly two application domains. 

Firstly, this is the domain of Cultural Heritage and Digital Humanities where I collaborate in multidisciplinary networks with researchers and practitioners from diverse application domains (historians, spatial economists, librarians, theologists, archivists, etc.). In the past three years, I had the opportunity to work even closer together with domain experts through a position at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. 

In the past years I also have built up a research profile and collaboration network in ICT for Development (ICT4D), where I employ (Semantic) Web technologies for knowledge sharing challenges in developing countries. Here, holistic user-centric approaches are needed for developing knowledge-intensive information systems with appropriate human-computer interfaces. 

Which trends and challenges do you see in linked data / semantic web?

One of the clear trends is that semantic technologies are now slowly but steadily coming into the mainstream. Where Semantic Web and Linked Data were until a few years ago mostly pushed by academic efforts -with enthusiastic support from a few champions outside academia- we now clearly see a technology pull coming from various organizations. Good examples can be found for instance in the Cultural Heritage domains, where GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) are opening their collections to the public and seek to connect to other institutions. Here Linked Data is becoming a must-have. We see similar changes in other domains where information sharing is becoming the norm rather than the exception. With this demand, more technology suppliers are now popping up to deliver scalable, sustainable Linked Data solutions.  
One challenge that needs to be addressed is how we provide scalable and sustainable services and how these services can be exploited by commercial vendors such that sustainable business models can be developed. Other challenges include data provenance and quality: where does reused information come from and how do we assess its quality? 

What are your expectations on Semantics 2017?

I am very excited Semantics is coming to the Netherlands, where we have such an active Linked Data community. Amsterdam should be the perfect place to connect people from academia, industry, NGOs and governments enthusiastic (or curious) about Semantic technologies and its applications. I am also excited about this year's special topic of Data Science which gives us an excellent opportunity to get even more people with this background excited about Linked Data and Semantic Web. I am convinced that all ingredients are there to make SEMANTiCS 2017 the most successful version of this conference yet!