NSF Grants to Help Create Next-Generation Web

Machines May be Capable of Processes Resembling Deductive Reasoning

Oct. 8, 2008

Computer scientists at UT Dallas have received $550,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop next-generation Web technology intended to enhance capabilities for everything from online scientific research to electronic social networking.

The researchers’ work concerns what’s known as the semantic Web, a smarter Web in which online content will be machine-understandable. Then computers will be able to process the meaning of words and phrases – and the thoughts they express – rather than simply searching for keywords and phrases.

Machines would then be able to relate one thought to others, processing knowledge – not just text – using processes similar to deductive reasoning and inference. That should produce better search results and the ability to navigate through the Web in a much more sophisticated way, enabling people to take fuller advantage of the abundance of information that’s online.

“Our research will not only advance the state of the art in semantic Web technologies but also address security challenges that arise as content searches become more advanced,” said Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, the principal investigator for the project and a professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas.

Semantic Web technology is emerging as a crucial enabling technology for knowledge management, information integration, social networking and other applications, she added, noting that Tim Berners-Lee, a professor at MIT who’s credited with inventing the World Wide Web, has said that machine-understandable Web pages are key to making the Web more useful.

UT Dallas researchers have conducted extensive research on creating semantic Web technology and ensuring that it’s secure, and Thuraisingham’s latest book is titled Building Trustworthy Semantic Webs. She also teaches a graduate course on the topic, and she and her colleagues have introduced graduate courses on other aspects of semantic Web technologies and on an emerging technology known as cloud computing.

Her co-investigators on the two three-year NSF grants are fellow computer science faculty Latifur Khan, Murat Kantarcioglu and Vincent Ng.

Members of the UT Dallas team are also working on semantic Web research funded by agencies such as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. In addition, they’re collaborating with Raytheon Co. on creating semantic Web technology that can find and analyze visual information.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on developing security technologies for Web 2.0, which is basically the Web as we know it today,” Dr. Khan said, “but we are looking ahead to Web 3.0, as the Web will exist several years from now. And semantic Web technology is expected to be a key part of that.”

Cybersecurity and semantic Web research projects have burgeoned at UT Dallas in the past two years with funding from not only NSF, IARPA and Raytheon but also the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and NASA, among others.

“We are also focusing on introducing novel courses on highly innovative topics and winning additional education grants from various federal agencies,” Thuraisingham added. “Our next step is to release a number of open-source software tools for both semantic Web security and knowledge discovery within the next year.”


Media contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham is the principal investigator for the project and a professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas.

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