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Probing the SPARQL endpoint of data.gov.uk

October 23rd, 2009

We just ran across the preview SPARQL endpoint for UK’s Data.gov (powered by Talis) following Harry Metcalfe’s blog . In order to understand what data is hosted by the triple store, we use a series of SPARQL queries to probe the content in data.gov. We leverage a web service http://data-gov.tw.rpi.edu/ws/sparqlproxy.php to convert SPARQL/XMl result into HTML and JSON.

First, let’s do some warm up exercises

Q: show me some triples!


SELECT ?s ?p ?o WHERE {?s ?p ?o} LIMIT 5


<http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/id/issues/58316/notices/240663> <http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#hasPublicationDate> “2007-05-02″^^http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#date .

<http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/id/issues/58316/notices/240663> <http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/page> <http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/58316/pages/6359> .

<http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/id/issues/58316/notices/240663> <http://purl.org/dc/terms/modified> “2007-05-02″^^http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#date .

A: ok, it has some gazette dataset about lond (see http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/), and it uses FOAF and DC vocabulary.

Q: show me some classes and their instances?









A: same observation as above.

Q: Does it host any named graphs?


SELECT ?g WHERE {GRAPH ?g { ?s ?p ?o } } LIMIT 10

Result: “0” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: no named graph found, and there is only one big default graph

Now let’s run several expensive aggregation queries (note aggregation queries are not part of the current SPARQL specification)

Q: How many triples?


SELECT count(*) WHERE {?s ?p ?o}

Result: “5529380”^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: alright! Aggregation query is support, and there are 5 million triples. Note “count” is a non-standard aggregation function, it may be support differently be different SPARQL endpoints.

Q: How many graphs (and the number of triples in each graph)?


SELECT ?g count(*) WHERE {GRAPH ?g { ?s ?p ?o } }

Result: “0” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: no named graph.

Q: How many populated classes?


SELECT count(distinct ?c) WHERE {[] a ?c}

Result: “99”^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: there are 99 different classes having direct instances in this triple store.

Q: How many populated properties?


SELECT count(distinct ?p) WHERE {[] ?p ?o}

Result: “86” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: There are 86 unique properties being used as predicate in this dataset. Each property has used by 64K (5529380/86) triples in average. There must be some very popular properties, and we will do that survey later.

Q: How many typed individuals?


SELECT count(distinct ?s) WHERE {?s a ?c}

Result: 504 Gateway Time-out

A: Opps, really expensive. Let’s try something else

Q: How many defined classes?


SELECT count(distinct ?s) WHERE {{?s a <http://www.w3.org/2002/07/owl#Class> } UNION {?s a <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#Class>}}

Result: 0

A: no class defined, and the triple store is full of individuals

Q: How many individuals (again)?


SELECT count(*) WHERE {[] a ?c}

Result: 995694

A: There are nearly 1 millions of typed individuals, so we can easily see every invidual has 5 (5M/1M) triples in average.

Now, let’s do some knowledge discovery

Q: Show me the 3 most/least used classes in this dataset?


1) select ?c ( count(?s) AS ?count ) where {?s a ?c} group by ?c order by desc(?count) limit 3

2) select ?c ( count(?s) AS ?count ) where {?s a ?c} group by ?c order by ?count limit 3


1) most used classes

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#Notice> “156452” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.w3.org/2006/vcard/ns#Address> “106934” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/person#Person> “87798” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

2) least used classes

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/transport#CycleTracksNotice> “1” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/transport#PortsNotice> “1” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/corp-insolvency#AdministrationOrder> “2” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: Again, the SPAQL query is “safe” because Talis support these SPARQL extensions (c.f. http://n2.talis.com/wiki/SPARQL_Extensions). The class that has the most number of instances in this dataset is http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#Notice (which has 156,452 instances.)

Q: what about property usage (top 5)?


1) select ?p ( count(?s) AS ?count ) where {?s ?p ?o} group by ?p order by DESC(?count) limit 5

2) select ?p ( count(?s) AS ?count ) where {?s ?p ?o} group by ?p order by ?count limit 5


1) 5 most used properties:

<http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#type> “995694” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://purl.org/dc/dcam/memberOf> “312476” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#value> “310170” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#hasPublicationDate> “181940” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#hasNoticeCode> “181335” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

2) 5 least used properties:

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/corp-insolvency#dateAdministrationOrderMade> “1” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#hasAuthorisingOrganisation> “2” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/personal-legal#isForNextOfKinOf> “2” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/corp-insolvency#orderAdministrator> “3” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

<http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology#authorisingOrganisation> “49” ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#integer>

A: Some properties are really used (e.g., http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/ontology/corp-insolvency#dateAdministrationOrderMade has been used only once) while some are heavily used (like rdf:type, which is the most frequently used predicate).


We need to stop probing now. A number of complex queries ended up with a timeout error because (i) “LIMIT” only control the final results, so that we cannot just get statistical results on 1000 triples; (ii) “GROUP BY” may produce too many intermediate results, (iii) the statistics queries does not leverage the index structure of triple store, or index structure are not designed for handling such queries, and (iv) many other issues.


presented by Li Ding and Zhengning Shangguan

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Probing the SPARQL endpoint of data.gov.uk , 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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  1. October 23rd, 2009 at 07:52 | #1

    Very interesting.

    Would it be possible that you publish this as a kind of script for access point providers to check their data?

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  2. October 23rd, 2009 at 18:34 | #2

    yes. We have a script running doing the job now. Expensive queries are still problems, but that may be solved by using only lightweight queries and leverage timeout mechanisms.


    It is PHP based, and the source code can be found at


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  3. October 24th, 2009 at 11:09 | #3


    Thanks for posting this, an interesting experiment!

    There are actually several SPARQL endpoints. The one you’ve been playing with doesn’t yet contain all of the data we’re hosting. It currently has some information from the London Gazette website, but will ultimately contain the full UK dataset.

    There will be a number of different SPARQL endpoints organized around particular areas, e.g. education, transport, crime, etc. There is data in the education and transport stores currently:


    We also have plans to publish VOID descriptions of the datasets as well as additional directory information.



    Programme Manager, Talis Platform

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  4. October 24th, 2009 at 22:44 | #4

    very cool. Just ran my script to probe it

    http://services.data.gov.uk/sparql 5M triples, 99 classes, 86 properties live test
    http://services.data.gov.uk/transport/sparql very big, timeout in most cases
    http://services.data.gov.uk/education/sparql 6M triples,41 classes, 186 properties, 2258 named graphs live test

    @Leigh Dodds

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  5. December 11th, 2009 at 11:45 | #5

    I’m not familiar with count yet (how widely supported is this?) but a standard SPARQL 1.0 query should go a long way towards probing:

    SELECT DISTINCT ?p WHERE { ?s ?p ?o }

    As @PaulMiller just mentioned on twitter, it could be wrapped in a pretty front end.

    But as Leigh suggested, getting VOID descriptions in place would help a lot.

    Last time I looked Talis stores support SPARQL/JSON results – not sure if HTML results have been implemented (Leigh?).

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