The Semantic Web in Action


January 11, 2008


Six years ago in Scientific American, Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila unveiled a nascent vision of the Semantic Web: a highly interconnected network of data that could be easily accessed and understood by any desktop or handheld machine. They painted a future of intelligent software agents that would head out on the World Wide Web and automatically book flights and hotels for our trips, update our medical records and give us a single, customized answer to a particular question without our having to search for information or pore through results.

Eric has recently co-authored a follow-up to that article in Scientific American where he argues that a wide variety of online Semantic Web applications are emerging, from Vodaphone’s mobile phone service to Boeing’s system for coordinating the work of vendors. What is more scientist and researchers are developing some of the most advanced uses of the technology including a system that pinpoints the genetic causes of heart disease and one that reveals the early stages of influenza outbreaks. Eric will explain how companies and universities working through the World Wide Web Consortium are developing standards to make the Semantic Web more accessible and easier to use.


Eric Neumann

Eric is a neurobiologist by training who transitioned into informatics, providing yet another case that information is central to biology. He is currently director of the Clinical Semantics Group, a consulting firm specializing in semantic web solutions for drug R&D. He has worked in the biotech and pharmaceutical world for the last 10 years, and a few large corporations such as BBN and Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals. He helped create and directed BG-Medicine’s informatics division, and founded Genstruct where he created their Knowledge Assembly strategy. Eric is also an MIT Fellow with Science Commons, working on the NeuroCommons Project.