The International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC) -- the leading conference for research on Semantic Web topics -- is coming to the Lehigh Valley this fall.

A Lehigh University team led by Jeff Heflin, associate professor of computer science and engineering, successfully landed a competitive bid to host the 14th annual ISWC.

Heflin, who has served on four ISWC organizing committees over the last decade, said the weeklong learning and networking event draws academic, corporate, and government researchers from around the world.

"We were able to put together a great bid because we had a strong team," said Heflin. "There were so many people at Lehigh who stepped up to help prepare it. We also had help from Discover Lehigh Valley in making contacts with hotels and putting together information about the local area. Sands Bethlehem was also very helpful in helping us figure out how to use their space to meet the logistical needs of the conference."

The annual event is overseen by the Semantic Web Science Association (SWSA), a non-profit that promotes the exchange of scholarly work in Semantic Web and related fields throughout the world. Lehigh’s Semantic Web Agent Technologies (SWAT) Lab defines the Semantic Web as “a vision for extending the Web so that machines can more intelligently integrate and process the wealth of information that is available.” Unlike traditional Web code, Semantic Web languages allow semantics (i.e., meaning) to be explicitly associated with its content.

With Lehigh's recent announcement of its new Data X initiative, University of Koblenz-Landau Germany professor Steffen Staab, chair of this year's conference, sees it as a perfect time to bring the subject of the Semantic Web to the Lehigh Valley.

"ISWC is a truly international conference rotating between the Americas, Europe and Asia-Australia," said Staab. "Big Data is an excellent place for semantics ... Semantic Web comes into play for managing autonomous data sources, integrating them, reconciling them, and discovering useful knowledge."

"Semantic Web researchers have been working with large, messy, heterogeneous graphs for over a decade now," Heflin said. "The Semantic Web offer insights on how to scalably store and analyze this increasingly important form of data."

Bringing ISWC to Lehigh puts Bethlehem in good company. Recent ISWC venues include Sydney, Australia (2014), as well as South Korea, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Japan, China, Boston and Washington, D.C.

"Our University’s reputation in this area is growing every day," Heflin explained. "Many of the conference attendees are already familiar with the Lehigh University Benchmark (LUBM) and other work by our team, but otherwise know little about Lehigh. Getting the nod from ISWC is confirmation of Lehigh’s stature in the field."

"Lehigh put forth an excellent bid that [showcased] the strengths of the location," said Staab, " as well as the strengths of the local organization team, including [Helfin as] a highly renowned researcher in the community."

The International Semantic Web Conference will be held October 11-15, 2015. Visit the conference's official website for more information.