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This article is part of the supplement: Semantic Web Applications and Tools for Life Sciences (SWAT4LS) 2010

Open Access Open Badges Research

SPARQL Assist language-neutral query composer

Luke McCarthy, Ben Vandervalk and Mark Wilkinson*

Author affiliations

Providence Heart + Lung Institute at St. Paul's Hospital, University of British Columbia, Room 166 - 1081 Burrard St., Vancouver, BC, Canada V6Z 1Y6

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Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13(Suppl 1):S2  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S1-S2

Published: 25 January 2012



SPARQL query composition is difficult for the lay-person, and even the experienced bioinformatician in cases where the data model is unfamiliar. Moreover, established best-practices and internationalization concerns dictate that the identifiers for ontological terms should be opaque rather than human-readable, which further complicates the task of synthesizing queries manually.


We present SPARQL Assist: a Web application that addresses these issues by providing context-sensitive type-ahead completion during SPARQL query construction. Ontological terms are suggested using their multi-lingual labels and descriptions, leveraging existing support for internationalization and language-neutrality. Moreover, the system utilizes the semantics embedded in ontologies, and within the query itself, to help prioritize the most likely suggestions.


To ensure success, the Semantic Web must be easily available to all users, regardless of locale, training, or preferred language. By enhancing support for internationalization, and moreover by simplifying the manual construction of SPARQL queries through the use of controlled-natural-language interfaces, we believe we have made some early steps towards simplifying access to Semantic Web resources.