Database Seminar

  • Assistant Professor
  • School of Computer Science
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Why and How: A Reverse Perspective on Data Management

Current trends have seen data grow larger, more intertwined, and more diverse, as more and more users contribute to and use it. This trend has given rise to the need to support richer data analysis tasks. Such tasks involve determining the causes of observations, finding and correcting the sources of error in query results, as well as modifying the data in order to make it conform to complex desirable properties.

In this talk, I will discuss two main challenges: (a) providing explanations through support for causal queries ("Why"), and (b) modifying datasets based on high-level declarative constraints ("How"). First, I will show how to apply causal reasoning to tuple provenance in order to determine the causes of query results, and to identify the source of possible errors.  I will present analysis of the data complexity for the case of conjunctive queries, and focus on a complete dichotomy between NP-hard and PTIME cases for the problem of computing responsibility.

Finally, I will present the Tiresias system, the first how-to query engine, which seamlessly integrates database systems with constrained problem solving capabilities. The contributions of the system are threefold: (a) a declarative interface for defining how-to queries over a database, (b) translation rules from the declarative statements to the constrained problem specification, and (c) a suite of data-specific optimizations that allow scaling to large data sizes. Initial results of our prototype system implementation show order-of-magnitude speedups to state-of-the-art solver runtimes, which indicates that there are significant gains in pushing this functionality within the database engine. I will conclude with a discussion of the next steps with the Tiresias system, and the bigger vision of reverse data management.

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