Paper in CMNA 2010 Post-proceedings

I’m co-author of a paper in a post-workshop proceedings of the Workshop on Computational Models of Natural Argument in 2010 and 2011.
Working on the Argument Pipeline: Through Flow Issues between Natural Language Argument, Instantiated Arguments, and Argumentation Frameworks
Adam Wyner, Tom van Engers, and Anthony Hunter
In many domains of public discourse such as arguments about public policy, there is an abundance of knowledge to store, query, and reason with. To use this knowledge, we must address two key general problems: first, the problem of the knowledge acquisition bottleneck between forms in which the knowledge is usually expressed, e.g. natural language, and forms which can be automatically processed; second, reasoning with the uncertainties and inconsistencies of the knowledge. Given such complexities, it is labour and knowledge intensive to conduct policy consultations, where participants contribute statements to the policy discourse. Yet, from such a consultation, we want to derive policy positions, where each position is a set of consistent statements, but where positions may be mutually inconsistent. To address these problems and support policy-making consultations, we consider recent automated techniques in natural language processing, instantiating arguments, and reasoning with the arguments in argumentation frameworks. We discuss application and “bridge” issues between these techniques, outlining a pipeline of technologies whereby: expressions in a controlled natural language are parsed and translated into a logic (a literals and rules knowledge base), from which we generate instantiated arguments and their relationships using a logic-based formalism (an argument knowledge base), which is then input to an implemented argumentation framework that calculates extensions of arguments (an argument extensions knowledge base), and finally, we extract consistent sets of expressions (policy positions). The paper reports progress towards reasoning with web-based, distributed, collaborative, incomplete, and inconsistent knowledge bases expressed in natural language.
author = {Adam Wyner and Tom van Engers and Anthony Hunter},
title = {Working on the Argument Pipeline: Through Flow Issues between Natural
Language Argument, Instantiated Arguments, and Argumentation Frameworks},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the Workshop on Computational Models of Natural Argument},
year = {2013},
editor = {??},
pages = {??-??},
note = {To appear}
Shortlink to this page.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Psychological Studies of Policy Reasoning

The New York Times had an article on the difficulties that the public has to understand complex policy proposals – I’m Right (For Some Reason). The points in the article relate directly to the research I’ve been doing at Liverpool on the IMPACT Project, for we decompose a policy proposal into its constituent parts for examination and improved understanding. See our tool live: Structured Consultation Tool
Policy proposals are often presented in an encapsulated form (a sound bite). And those receiving it presume that they understand it, the illusion of explanatory depth discussed in a recent article by Frank Keil (a psychology professor at Cornell when and where I was a Linguistics PhD student). This is the illusion where people believe they understand a complex phenomena with greater precision, coherence, and depth than they actually do; they overestimate their understanding. To philosophers, this is hardly a new phenomena, but showing it experimentally is a new result.
In research about public policy, the NY Times authors, Sloman and Fernbach, describe experiments where people state a position and then had to justify it. The results showed that participants softened their views as a result, for their efforts to justify it highlighted the limits of their understanding. Rather than statements of policy proposals, they suggest:

Instead, we voters need to be more mindful that issues are complicated and challenge ourselves to break down the policy proposals on both sides into their component parts. We have to then imagine how these ideas would work in the real world — and then make a choice: to either moderate our positions on policies we don’t really understand, as research suggests we will, or try to improve our understanding.

Breaking down policy proposals into component parts for further investigation and understanding is exactly what we’ve been doing in the IMPACT Project.
This article and the references to further literature are not only intrinsically interesting, but they also give me additional ways of thinking about these issues and an evaluative paradigm for our tools.

Oxford Internet Institute

My attention was drawn to the Oxford Internet Institute:

The Oxford Internet Institute was founded in 2001 at the University of Oxford, as an academic centre for the study of the societal implications of the Internet.
In the last forty years the Internet has grown from an arcane and specialized academic service to the sophisticated global network of networks we see today: during this period the complexity of its societal implications has become ever more obvious, as well as the many ways it shapes our lives. Grounded in a determination to measure, understand and explain the Internet’s multi-faceted interactions and effects, our research projects bring together some of the best international scholars within a multi-disciplinary department in one of the world’s top research universities. We are committed to being an informed, independent and nonpartisan source of the highest quality analysis and insight in all our research and policy-related activities.

The institute recently organised a conference on Internet, Politics, Policy 2012: Big Data, Big Challenges, where there were some papers bearing on policy-making. These are topics closely related to research that I do. An organisation worth following in the future.

Dead Cert – BBC Podcast about Uncertainty in Public Discourse

BBC Radio 4 has a 30 minute radio show about uncertainty in public discourse. Several of the points were well made and relevant to key lines of research that I do (argumentation, policy-making), so I thought it worthwhile to give a link here.
The main questions that caught my attention were:

  • How do we (public, experts, and politicians) make public decisions where there is uncertainty?
  • How are problems and proposals presented by different organisations (politicians, experts, and journalists)?

All the content below is from the BBC. The link below should take you to the BBC site and start the presentation. However, there might be some restrictions on access from outside the UK.
– Adam
Certainty: is the lust for it a sin? And if so, should politics fear for its soul? Michael Blastland makes a plea for policy makers to be less sure of themselves in “Dead Cert”, originally broadcast on 6 November 2008.

Papers at ITBAM 2012, ePart 2012, and EKAW 2012

Recent papers at various conferences. One is in the 3rd International Conference on Information Technology in Bio- and Medical Informatics (ITBAM 2012), Vienna, Austria. Another is in the 4th International Conference on eParticipation (ePart 2012), Kristainsand, Norway. And a final paper is in the 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management, Galway, Ireland.
Argumentation to represent and reason over biological systems
Adam Wyner, Luke Riley, Robert Hoehndorf, and Samuel Croset.
In systems biology, networks represent components of biological systems and their interactions. It is a challenge to efficiently represent, integrate and analyse the wealth of information that is now being created in biology, where issues concerning consistency arise. As well, the information offers novel methods to explain and explore biological phenomena. To represent and reason with inconsistency as well as provide explanation, we represent a fragment of a biological system and its interactions in terms of a computational model of argument and argumentation schemes. Process pathways are represented in terms of an argumentation scheme, then abstracted into a computational model for evaluation, yielding sets of ‘consistent’ arguments that represent compatible biological processes. From the arguments, we can extract the corresponding processes. We show how the analysis supports explanation and systematic exploration in a biology network.
author = {Adam Wyner and Riley, Luke and Robert Hoehndorf and Samuel Croset},
title = {Argumentation to Represent and Reason over Biological Systems},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Information Technology in Bio- and Medical Informatics ({ITBAM} 2012)},
year = {2012},
note = {To appear},
Model based critique of policy proposals
Adam Wyner, Katie Atkinson, and Trevor Bench-Capon
Citizens may engage with policy issues both to critique official justifications, and to make their own proposals and receive reasons why they are not favoured. Either direction of use can be supported by argumentation schemes based on formal models, which can be used to verify and generate arguments, assimilate objections etc. Previously we have explored the citizen critiqing a justification using an argumentation scheme based on Alternating Action-based Transition Systems. We now present a system which uses the same model to critique proposals from citizens. A prototype has been implemented in Prolog and we illustrate the ideas with code fragments and a running example.
author = {Adam Wyner and Atkinson, Katie and Trevor Bench-Capon},
title = {Model Based Critique of Policy Proposals},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on e{P}articipation (e{P}art 2012)},
year = {2012},
note = {To appear},
Dimensions of argumentation in social media
Jodi Schneider, Brian Davis, and Adam Wyner
Mining social media for opinions is important to governments and businesses. Current approaches focus on sentiment and opinion detection. Yet, people also justify their views, giving arguments. Understanding arguments in social media would yield richer knowledge about the views of individuals and collectives. Extracting arguments from social media is difficult. Messages appear to lack indicators for argument, document structure, or inter-document relationships. In social media, lexical variety, alternative spellings, multiple languages, and alternative punctuation are common. Social media also encompasses numerous genres. These aspects can confound the extraction of well-formed knowledge bases of argument. We chart out the various aspects in order to isolate them for further analysis and processing.
author = {Jodi Schneider and Davis, Brian and Adam Wyner},
title = {Dimensions of Argumentation in Social Media},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management ({EKAW} 2012)},
year = {2012},
note = {To appear},
Shortlink to this page.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Papers at AAMAS 2012 and ArgMas 2012

At the 11th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems Conference in Valencia, Spain, I had a short paper in the main conference and a paper in the Argumentation in Multi-agent Systems Workshop
Opinion gathering using a multi-agent systems approach to policy selection
Katie Atkinson, Trevor Bench-Capon, and Adam Wyner
An important aspect of e-democracy is consultation, in which policy proposals are presented and feedback from citizens is received and assimilated so that these proposals can be refined and made more acceptable to the citizens affected by them. We present an innovative web-based application that uses recent developments in multi-agent systems (MAS) to provide intelligent support for opinion gathering, eliciting a structured critique within a highly usable system.
author = {Katie Atkinson and Trevor Bench-Capon and Adam Wyner},
title = {Opinion Gathering Using a Multi-Agent Systems Approach to Policy
booktitle = {Proceedings of AAMAS 2012},
year = {2012},
editor = {Vincent Conitzer and Winikoff, Michael and Wiebe van der Hoek and
Lin Padgham},
pages = {1171-1172}
A functional perspective on argumentation schemes
Adam Wyner, Katie Atkinson, and Trevor Bench-Capon
In multi-agent systems (MAS), abstract argumentation and argumentation schemes are increasingly important. To be useful for MAS, argumentation schemes require a computational approach so that agents can use the components of a scheme to present arguments and counterarguments. This paper proposes a syntactic analysis that integrates argumentation schemes with abstract argumentation. Schemes can be analysed into the roles that propositions play in each scheme and the structure of the associated propositions, yielding a greater understanding of the schemes, a uniform method of analysis, and a systematic means to relate one scheme to another. This analysis of the schemes helps to clarify what is needed to provide denotations of the terms and predicates in a semantic model.
author = {Adam Wyner and Atkinson, Katie and Trevor Bench-Capon},
title = {A Functional Perspective on Argumentation Schemes},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 9th International Workshop on Argumentation in
Multi-Agent Systems ({ArgMAS} 2012)},
year = {2012},
editor = {Peter McBurney and Parsons, Simon and Iyad Rahwan},
pages = {203-222},
Shortlink to this page.
By Adam Wyner

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Note on Workshop on FP7 eGovernance and Policy Modelling Projects

On January 27th, 2012, I attended a workshop in Sheffield, United Kingdom on current FP7 eGovernance and Policy Modelling projects. This was an opportunity to hear from and meet participants in other projects, largely based in the United Kingdom. The information (somewhat augmented) about the workshop is below. My colleagues in the IMPACT Project, Professor Ann Macintosh and Neil Benn, presented our side of the story.

  • To close the gap between the availability of cutting edge R & D in eGovernance and Policy Modelling and its take-up in local and central government. It will bring the new governance projects and those about to exploit their results into a collaborative environment.
  • To link the projects currently creating the best practice of the future with initiatives seeking to share current best practice, thus assisting with “exploitation” of the new initiatives.
  • To briefly assess how these initiatives may be of global benefit by examining how China may be encouraged to take a short cut to sustainable development and looking at joint approaches to China.
  • Agenda

  • Introduction and background to the event. Baudouin de Sonis, Chief Executive of EU e-Forum, Brussels.
  • Presentations of some current EU FP7 Projects

  • The IMPACT Project
    Tools to support policy-making using computational argumentation.
    Professor of Digital Governance, Co-Director of the Centre for Digital Citizenship, The University of Leeds.
  • The CATCH Project
    Tools in a carbon-reduction context.
    Dr Steve Cassidy, MRCMH, Edinburgh
  • +SPACES project
    Michael Gardner, University of Essex.
  • The FUPOL project
    Tools in a sustainable development context.
    Gary Simpson and Jonathan Gay –EASY Connects, South Yorkshire.
  • PADGETS project
    A toolset that will allow citizens and public administration decision makers to engage interactively in group planning, simulation and assessment of governmental policy.
    Prof Paul Foley, Tech4i2 Loughborough/Brussels.
  • CROSSOVER project
    Reinforcing links between different global communities of policymakers, researchers, experts and citizens through a combination of content production and ad hoc and online and offline animation.
    Prof Paul Foley, Tech4i2
  • ePOLICY project
    Supporting the decision making process through opinion-mining and visualisation tools.
    Tina Balke, University of Surrey.
  • iSAC+6
    A tool for filtering and redirecting public service enquiries using text analytics and an ontological information structure.
  • Policy making and the real world
    Presentations of three new Interreg IVC projects with South Yorkshire partners covering sharing of current best practice in environmental policy making, set in a wider vision for Sheffield.

  • Slicker Cities: Doing the right thing
    Policies which are required to enable Sheffield to become an exemplar in tackling climate change.
    Edward Murphy. Technical Director. Mott MacDonald.
  • RE-GREEN Project
    Sheffield sustainable development policy.
    Adrian Hacket, Building for Future, Sheffield.
  • RENERGY Project
    Ian Bloomfield, Durham County Council
  • South Yorkshire Forest Interreg IVC Project
  • What Next?

  • Presentation of event to take place in China in July to share best practice in governance and establish strong future collaborations. Dr Shaun Topham, President EU e-Forum and EU-China e-Forum.
  • Discussion covering opportunities for realising any synergies emerging between the various initiatives represented or for new initiatives.
    Dr Bridgette Wessels, ICOSS, University of Sheffield
  • By Adam Wyner

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Papers Accepted to the JURIX 2011 Conference

    My colleagues and I have had two papers (one long and one short) accepted for presentation at The 24th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2011). The papers are available on the links.
    On Rule Extraction from Regulations
    Adam Wyner and Wim Peters
    Rules in regulations such as found in the US Federal Code of Regulations can be expressed using conditional and deontic rules. Identifying and extracting such rules from the language of the source material would be useful for automating rulebook management and translating into an executable logic. The paper presents a linguistically-oriented, rule-based approach, which is in contrast to a machine learning approach. It outlines use cases, discusses the source materials, reviews the methodology, then provides initial results and future steps.
    Populating an Online Consultation Tool
    Sarah Pulfrey-Taylor, Emily Henthorn, Katie Atkinson, Adam Wyner, and Trevor Bench-Capon
    The paper addresses the extraction, formalisation, and presentation of public policy arguments. Arguments are extracted from documents that comment on public policy proposals. Formalising the information from the arguments enables the construction of models and systematic analysis of the arguments. In addition, the arguments are represented in a form suitable for presentation in an online consultation tool. Thus, the forms in the consultation correlate with the formalisation and can be evaluated accordingly. The stages of the process are outlined with reference to a working example.
    Shortlink to this page.
    By Adam Wyner

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Workshop on Modelling Policy-making (MPM 2011)

    In conjunction with
    The 24th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2011)
    Wednesday December 14, 2011
    University of Vienna
    Vienna, Austria
    As the European Union develops, issues about governance, legitimacy, and transparency become more pressing. National governments and the EU Commission realise the need to promote widespread, deliberative democracy in the policy-making cycle, which has several phases: 1) agenda setting, 2) policy analysis, 3) lawmaking, 4) administration and implementation, and 5) monitoring. As governments must become more efficient and effective with the resources available, modern information and communications technology (ICT) are being drawn on to address problems of information processing in the phases. One of the key problems is policy content analysis and modelling, particularly the gap between on the one hand policy proposals and formulations that are expressed in quantitative and narrative forms and on the other hand formal models that can be used to systematically represent and reason with the information contained in the proposals and formulations.
    Submission Focus:
    The workshop invites submissions of original research about the application of ICT to the early phases of the policy cycle, namely those before the legislators fix the legislation: agenda setting, policy analysis, and lawmaking. The research should seek to address the gap noted above. The workshop focuses particularly on using and integrating a range of subcomponents – information extraction, text processing, representation, modelling, simulation, reasoning, and argument – to provide policy making tools to the public and public administrators.
    Intended Audience:
    Legal professionals, government administrators, political scientists, and computer scientists.
    Areas of Interest:

    • information extraction from natural language text
    • policy ontologies
    • formal logical representations of policies
    • transformations from policy language to executable policy rules
    • argumentation about policy proposals
    • web-based tools that support participatory policy-making
    • tools for increasing public understanding of arguments behind policy decisions
    • visualising policies and arguments about policies
    • computational models of policies and arguments about policies
    • integration tools
    • multi-agent policy simulations

    Preliminary Workshop Schedule:
    09:45-10:00 Workshop Opening comments
    10:00-11:00 Paper Session 1

    • Using PolicyCommons to support the policy-consultation process: investigating a new workflow and policy-deliberation data model
      Neil Benn and Ann Macintosh
    • A Problem Solving Model for Regulatory Policy Making
      Alexander Boer, Tom Van Engers and Giovanni Sileno

    11:00-11:15 Break (coffee, tea, air etc.)
    11:15-12:15 Paper Session 2

    • Linking Semantic Enrichment to Legal Documents
      Akos Szoke, Andras Forhecz, Krisztian Macsar and Gyorgy Strausz
    • Semantic Models and Ontologies in Modelling Policy-making
      Adam Wyner, Katie Atkinson and Trevor Bench-Capon

    12:15-13:15 Lunch break
    13:15-14:45 Paper Session 3

    • Consistent Conceptual Descriptions to Support Formal Policy Model Development: Metamodel and Approach
      Sabrina Scherer and Maria Wimmer
    • The Policy Modeling Tool of the IMPACT Argumentation Toolbox
      Thomas Gordon
    • Ontologies for Governance, Risk Management and Policy Compliance
      Jorge Gonzalez-Conejero, Albert Merono-Penuela and David Fernandez Gamez

    14:45-15:00 Break (coffee, tea, air etc.)
    15:00-16:00 Paper Session 4 and Closing discussion

    • Policy making: How rational is it?
      Tom Van Engers, Ignace Snellen and Wouter Van Haaften
    • Closing discussion

    Workshop Registration and Location:
    Please see the JURIX 2011 website for all information about registration and location.
    Webpage URL:
    Important Dates:

    • Submission: Monday, October 24
    • Review Notification: Monday, November 7
    • Final Version: Thursday, December 1
    • Workshop date: Wednesday, December 14

    Author Guidelines:
    Submit position papers of between 2-5 pages in length in PDF format and using the IOS Press style files and authors’ guidelines at:
    IOS Press Author Instructions
    Submit papers to:
    MPM 2011 on EasyChair
    The position papers are available only in an electronic version from the following link:
    Proceedings of the Workshop on Modelling Policy-making
    A call for selected extended versions of the papers will be issued for a special issue of AI and Law on Modelling Policy-making.
    Contact Information:
    Adam Wyner,
    Neil Benn,
    Program Committee Co-Chairs:
    Adam Wyner (University of Liverpool, UK)
    Neil Benn (University of Leeds, UK)
    Program Committee (Preliminary):
    Katie Atkinson
    Trevor Bench-Capon
    Bruce Edmonds
    Tom van Engers
    Euripidis Loukis
    Tom Gordon
    Ann Macintosh
    Gunther Schefbeck
    Maria Wimmer
    Radboud Winkels
    By Adam Wyner

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Recent Papers

    My colleagues and I have had the papers below accepted for upcoming conferences. The papers are all downloadable from the links provided.
    Towards a Structured Online Consultation Tool
    Adam Wyner, Katie Atkinson, and Trevor Bench-Capon
    ePart August 2011, Deflt, The Netherlands
    The Structured Online Consultation tool (SCT) is a component tool in the IMPACT Project which is used to construct and present detailed surveys that solicit feedback from the public concerning issues in public policy. The tool is underwritten by a computational model of argumentation, incorporating fine-grained, interconnected argumentation schemes. While the public responds to easy to understand questions, the answers can be assimilated into a structured framework for analytic purposes, supporting automated reasoning about arguments and counter-arguments.
    Multi-agent Based Classifi cation Using Argumentation From Experience
    Maya Wardeh, Frans Coenen, Trevor Bench-Capon, and Adam Wyner
    PAKDD May 2011, Shenzhen, China
    An approach to multi-agent classi fication, using an Argumentation from Experience paradigm is describe, whereby individual agents argue for a given example to be classifi ed with a particular label according to their local data. Arguments are expressed in the form of classi fication rules which are generated dynamically. The advocated argumentation process has been implemented in the PISA multi-agent framework, which is also described. Experiments indicate that the operation of PISA is comparable with other classi fication approaches and that it can be utilised for Ordinal Classifi cation and Imbalanced Class problems.
    Note: I was added to this paper to present it at the conference. I’m familiar with the argumentation aspects, but the data-mining is new to me.
    Semantic Models for Policy Deliberation
    Katie M. Atkinson, Trevor J.M. Bench-Capon, Dan Cartwright and Adam Z. Wyner
    ICAIL June 2011, Pittsburgh, USA
    Semantic models have received little attention in recent years, much of their role having been taken over by developments in ontologies. Ontologies, however, are static, and so have only a limited role in reasoning about domains in which change matters. In this paper, we focus on the domain of policy deliberation, where policy decisions are designed to change things to realise particular social values. We explore how a particular kind of state transition system can be constructed to serve as a semantic model to support reasoning about alternative policy decisions. The policy making process includes stages that support the construction of a model, which can then be exploited in reasoning. The reasoning itself will be driven by a particular argumentation scheme for practical reasoning, and the ways in which arguments based on this scheme can be attacked and evaluated. The evaluation provides alternative policy positions. The semantics underpin a current web-based implementation, designed to solicit structured feedback on policy proposals.
    Towards Formalising Argumentation about Legal Cases
    Adam Z. Wyner, Trevor J.M. Bench-Capon, Katie M. Atkinson
    ICAIL June 2011, Pittsburgh, USA
    In this paper we offer an account of reasoning with legal cases in terms of argumentation schemes. These schemes, and undercutting attacks associated with them, are expressed as defeasible rules of inference that will lend themselves to formalisation within the ASPIC+ framework. We begin by modelling the style of reasoning with cases developed by Aleven and Ashley in the CATO project, which describes cases using factors, and then extend the account to accommodate the dimensions used in Rissland and Ashley’s earlier HYPO project. Some additional scope for argumentation is then identified and formalised.
    By Adam Wyner
    Distributed under the Creative Commons
    Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0