The Semantic Web lacks support for explaining answers from web applications. When applications return answers, many users do not know what information sources were used, when they were updated, how reliable the source was, or what information was looked up versus derived. Many users also do not know how implicit answers were derived. The Inference Web (IW) aims to take opaque query answers and make the answers more transparent by providing infrastructure for presenting and managing explanations. The explanations include information concerning where answers came from (knowledge provenance) and how they were derived (or retrieved). In this article we describe an infrastructure for IW explanations. The infrastructure includes: IWBase – an extensible web-based registry containing details about information sources, reasoners, languages, and rewrite rules; PML – the Proof Markup Language specification and API used for encoding portable proofs; IW browser – a tool supporting navigation and presentations of proofs and their explanations; and a new explanation dialogue component. Source information in the IWBase is used to convey knowledge provenance. Representation and reasoning language axioms and rewrite rules in the IWBase are used to support proofs, proof combination, and Semantic Web agent interoperability. The Inference Web is in use by four Semantic Web agents, three of them using embedded reasoning engines fully registered in the IW. Inference Web also provides explanation infrastructure for a number of DARPA and ARDA projects.
The Inference Web is a Semantic Web based knowledge provenance infrastructure that supports interoperable explanations of sources, assumptions, learned information, and answers as an enabler for trust.