Notes on a successful ER 2013 conference

Unlike two other conferences earlier this year, the 32nd International Conference on Conceptual Modeling (ER’13) in Hong Kong, held 11-13 Nov, was a success: good presentations, inspiring discussions, new ideas, follow-ups, and an enjoyable crowd. As a bonus, the paper Pablo Fillottrani and I wrote on metamodelling [1] was nominated for best paper award. I’ve posted about our paper earlier, so I will highlight some of the other papers.

There were two sessions on ontology-driven conceptual modelling, of which one ran concurrent with the reasoning over conceptual data models. It was a tough choice, but in the end I attended both ontology-based conceptual modelling sessions. Skimming and reading through the three reasoning papers from John Mylopoulos and co-authors, they covered reasoning with decision-theoretic goals, reasoning with business plans, and the third was about automated reasoning for regulatory compliance, like in law and for answering questions such as ‘given situation S, what are alternative ways to comply with law L?’ [2]. Regarding the latter, there are models of the law represented in the Nomos 2 modelling language, which were formalized and sent to the automated reasoner, being the off-the-shelf Datalog-based reasoner DLV. It was demonstrated that it is actually feasible to do this, taking into account scalability. These are encouraging results for automated reasoning with such conceptual models.

The ontology-based modeling papers were varied. There were some fundamental results on a first extension of the UFO foundational ontology for conceptual data modeling of events [3], presented by Giancarlo Guizzardi, that has been used successfully in other projects, and our ontology-driven metamodelling, also using philosophy directly (notably, the positionalism of relations and quality properties) [1]. A ‘merger’ of ontology, information systems, and linked data was presented by Chiara Renso who talked about the Baquara ontology to help conceptual analysis of movement of people talking about some entity at a certain location [4], which won the best paper award. A use case of improving a conceptual data model using UFO was presented by Oscar Pastor [5], using an earlier developed conceptual model of the human genome. Not that I agree with Gene being a “collective”, but, overall, it gives a clear example how a model may be enhanced and indeed lays bare underlying assumptions and understanding that are missed in ‘plain’ conceptual modelling.

Besides ontology-driven conceptual modeling, there were four papers on fundamentals of conceptual modeling. One of the topics was about conceptual modeling and concepts [6], presented by Chris Partridge. To its credit, the paper refines some notions of concepts I wasn’t aware of, but I have grown a bit tired of the concept vs universal debate due to its intense discussions in ontology engineering (see links to debates and reference here). Roman Lukyanenko proposed a new way for conceptual modeling: instead of top-down, go bottom-up and gather the classes and attributes from the crowd using citizen science and free-form annotations without any form of curation [7]. It’s on the other end of the spectrum compared to standard conceptual data modeling, which is a bit too loose to my liking especially because of the lack of curation of proposed terms, but a hybrid certainly may be useful.  Not in this session, but somewhat related, was Tilmann Zäschke’s presentation about optimizing conceptual data models using the actual database [8]. They proposed a method and patterns for updating the conceptual data model based on usage of the database (including path navigation), using DBLP as a case study.

There were two sessions on business process modeling and two sessions on applications, one on network modeling, security, data semantics, and a demo session, several keynotes, workshops, and panels that partially overlapped with other sessions that I don’t have the time for writing up the notes here. I did go to the panel on “open models”, or: why is there open source software, but hardly any open source conceptual models? I plan to get back to this question in a later post.

The food was good, and so were the generous reception and social dinner (eating some sort of a sweet bean soup for desert was a bit curious, though), and it was great to meet again with people I’ve met before and to finally meet several people in person of whom I only had read and cited papers over the years, including Brian Henderson-Sellers, Veda Storey, Sudha Ram, Antoni Olivé, and Peter Chen. Even though ER’14 is in the USA next year (Atlanta), I may give it a try anyway.


(note: most of the links point to the version at Springer; search again later or ask the authors for a free copy. In fact, it smells as if this is due to a collaboration between Google Scholar and Springer: when I search for my own paper, whose CRC is online since the blog post about it in August, GS pretends it does not exist either, idem for Zäschke’s paper.)

[1] Keet, C.M., Fillottrani, P.R. Toward an ontology-driven unifying metamodel for UML Class Diagrams, EER, and ORM2. 32nd International Conference on Conceptual Modeling (ER’13). 11-13 November, 2013, Hong Kong. Springer LNCS vol 8217, 313-326.

[2] Siena, A., Ingolfo, A, Perini, A, Susi, A, Mylopoulos, J. Automated reasoning for regulatory compliance. ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 47-60.

[3] Guizzardi, G., Wagner, G., de Almeida Falbo, R., Guizzardi, R.S.S., Almeida, J.P.A. Towards ontological foundations for the conceptual modeling of events. ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 327-341.

[4] Fileto, R., Kruger, M., Pelekis, N., Theodoridis, Y., Renso, C. Baquara: a holistic ontological framework for movement analysis using linked data. ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 342-355.

[5] Martinez Ferrandis, A.M., Pastor Lopez, O., Guizzardi, G.. Applying the principles of an ontology-based approach. ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 471-478.

[6] Partridge, C., Gonzalez-Perez, C., Henderson-Sellers, B. Are conceptual models concept models? ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 96-105.

[7] Lukyanenko, R. Parsons, J. Is traditional conceptual modeling becoming obsolete? ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 61-73.

[8] Zäschke, T., Leone, S., Gmunder, T., Norrie, M.C.. Optimizing conceptual data models through profiling in object databases. ER’13, Springer LNCS vol 8217, 284-297.