Data Sciences: From First-Order Logic to the Web|
Introducing Serge Abiteboul
Dear Serge Abiteboul,
2The amount of information circulating on the Internet is mind-boggling to say the least. In 2012, it is estimated to be far greater than all the sentences spoken since the appearance of language. The management of the data, information and knowledge thus produced raises crucial questions from an information technology and scientific point of view, as well as an economic, ethical and societal perspective.
3Problems of storage and computation of data have no doubt largely been solved by now. Access to information is no longer a problem. What still is a problem is finding the right information, that which one needs, amongst the mass of accessible data. To enable us to go further than raw data and information, technologies have to be developed to assess, validate, rank and organize information intelligently and intelligibly. Databases have to be built as collections of elementary facts. The complexity stems from the astronomical quantity of information, and from their sometimes uncertain, imprecise and ambiguous nature, as well as their varied formats (text, image, sound).
4For instance, if you search Google for the name of the administrator of the Collège de France, you will be directed to several documents containing the words Collège, France and administrator. You will then have to scan them to find your answer. Actually, I know the answer…
5This is the type of problem that you are dealing with: going from texts in natural languages to knowledge bases. After being awarded your engineering degree and spending some time at the Technion of Haifa, you did your PhD in computer science in Los Angeles. There you developed a keen interest in fundamental information technology and in a new field, databases. You say, quote, “that it was largely because I was lazy” and because “the state of the art progressed much faster than in other fields and the competition not as stiff”.
6Your research, essentially theoretical at first, became very applied for a few years. You see the separation between science and technology as totally artificial, which is why you prefer the neologism informatics (informatique) to the term information science and technology. In 2000 you founded the start-up Xyleme, specialized in the management of large volumes of XML data, and whose software was used, for example, for the archives of the daily newspaper Le Monde.
7You have also developed other software, such as Active XML, which serves to distribute data management tasks between several machines, and Kadop, for managing massive volumes of XML data on a large number of small, autonomous machines.
8You are a senior director of research at INRIA, and scientific director of the research team Gemo working on the management of data and knowledge disseminated on the Web. And, according to Google Scholar, you are the most cited French researcher in the field of mathematics and computer science.
9We are therefore very pleased to welcome you to the Collège de France as holder of the annual Chair of Information Technology and Digital Sciences, supported by INRIA. Let’s take a dive with you into the world of data sciences.