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Expressing High-Level Scientific Claims with Formal Semantics

by   Cristina-iulia Bucur, et al.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica

The use of semantic technologies is gaining significant traction in science communication with a wide array of applications in disciplines including the Life Sciences, Computer Science, and the Social Sciences. Languages like RDF, OWL, and other formalisms based on formal logic are applied to make scientific knowledge accessible not only to human readers but also to automated systems. These approaches have mostly focused on the structure of scientific publications themselves, on the used scientific methods and equipment, or on the structure of the used datasets. The core claims or hypotheses of scientific work have only been covered in a shallow manner, such as by linking mentioned entities to established identifiers. In this research, we therefore want to find out whether we can use existing semantic formalisms to fully express the content of high-level scientific claims using formal semantics in a systematic way. Analyzing the main claims from a sample of scientific articles from all disciplines, we find that their semantics are more complex than what a straight-forward application of formalisms like RDF or OWL account for, but we managed to elicit a clear semantic pattern which we call the 'super-pattern'. We show here how the instantiation of the five slots of this super-pattern leads to a strictly defined statement in higher-order logic. We successfully applied this super-pattern to an enlarged sample of scientific claims. We show that knowledge representation experts, when instructed to independently instantiate the super-pattern with given scientific claims, show a high degree of consistency and convergence given the complexity of the task and the subject. These results therefore open the door for expressing high-level scientific findings in a manner they can be automatically interpreted, which on the longer run can allow us to do automated consistency checking, and much more.


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