Using Shape Expressions (ShEx) to Share RDF Data Models and to Guide Curation with Rigorous Validation

author: Katherine Thornton, Yale University
published: July 19, 2019,   recorded: June 2019,   views: 11
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Description

We discuss Shape Expressions (ShEx), a concise, formal, modeling and validation language for RDF structures. For instance, a Shape Expression could prescribe that subjects in a given RDF graph that fall into the shape “Paper” are expected to have a section called “Abstract”, and any ShEx implementation can confirm whether that is indeed the case for all such subjects within a given graph or subgraph.

There are currently five actively maintained ShEx implementations. We discuss how we use the JavaScript, Scala and Python implementations in RDF data validation workflows in distinct, applied contexts. We present examples of how ShEx can be used to model and validate data from two different sources, the domain-specific Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and the domain-generic Wikidata knowledge base, which is the linked database built and maintained by the Wikimedia Foundation as a sister project to Wikipedia. Example projects that are using Wikidata as a data curation platform are presented as well, along with ways in which they are using ShEx for modeling and validation.

When reusing RDF graphs created by others, it is important to know how the data is represented. Current practices of using human-readable descriptions or ontologies to communicate data structures often lack sufficient precision for data consumers to quickly and easily understand data representation details. We provide concrete examples of how we use ShEx as a constraint and validation language that allows humans and machines to communicate unambiguously about data assets. We use ShEx to exchange and understand data models of different origins, and to express a shared model of a resource’s footprint in a Linked Data source. We also use ShEx to agilely develop data models, test them against sample data, and revise or refine them. The expressivity of ShEx allows us to catch disagreement, inconsistencies, or errors efficiently, both at the time of input, and through batch inspections.

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Download slides icon Download slides: eswc2019_thornton_shape_expressions_01.pdf (968.7 KB)


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