Expert profile: Dr. Gian Piero Zarri

[ ID = 1391 ] Dr. Gian Piero Zarri 
Name Zarri, Dr. Gian Piero
Job Title Research Director 
Organisation Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) 
Address 44, rue de l'Amiral Mouchez 
Postal Code 75014 
City Paris 
Country France 
Phone + (33) (1)
Fax + (33) (1)
Email zarri_(on)_ivry.cnrs.fr [@ replaced for spam protection]
Organisation URL http://www.cnrs.fr 
Personal URL  
Membership ACL ACM, IEEE CS Society, American Ass. for AI, AICA, ATALA etc. 
LanguagesEnglish French, Italian
Specialism Annotation and Exploitation Tools
Cognitive Engineering
Computational Linguistics
Developer Tools
Filter Design
Information Retrieval
Knowledge Management
Language Modeling
Metadata Descriptions
Natural Language Processing
Natural Language Semantics
Web Applications 
PhotographDescription or CV
Gian Piero Zarri was awarded a M.Sc. in Electronic Engineering from the 
University of Bologna, Italy, and then a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the 
University of Paris-Orsay, France. He is actually Research Director at the 
French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and leader of a Data 
Engineering team.

Dr. Zarri is known internationally for combining methods from knowledge-based 
systems and natural language processing, as well as databases and information 
retrieval systems.

In a first phase of his scientific activities (1964-1974) — accomplished, 
at least partly, at the Centro di Cibernetica e di Attività Linguistiche 
of the Milan University (Italy) — Dr. Zarri has carried out a pioneering 
work in the domain of the use of computers in Literary and Linguistic studies. 
He has been one of the first researchers, on a world scale, to apply 
computer-based techniques to the study of ancient languages like the Latin 
(Roman epigraphy), the Greek (papyrology), or the Meroitic (Meroitic epigraphy: 
Meroitic is the language of the ancient Nubians). But his most well-known 
activity in this domain has been an original work on the automation of Literary 
Criticism — i.e., the possibility of reconstructing by computer the 
genealogy of medieval manuscripts, with applications both in the Classic and 
the Medieval Philology. From a Computer Science point of view, this work can be 
reduced, at least partly, to an atypical application of Graph Theory. After 
having built up a computer environment, QUENTIN/80, to allow the philologists 
to carry on the automatic reconstruction of the genealogies, Dr. Zarri has 
organised in 1976, when he already worked at CNRS, the first international 
Conference on the subject, see the bibliography. QUENTIN/80 was able, in 
particular, to take into account the ‘contamination’ phenomena, 
corresponding to the possibility that a manuscript may be associated with more 
than a father-manuscript.

After having been hired as a researcher by CNRS (1974), Mr. Zarri has 
reoriented his scientific activities mainly in the fields of Artificial 
Intelligence and Knowledge Representation. In this last area, inter alia, he 
defined and developed NKRL (short for “Narrative Knowledge Representation 
Language”), the knowledge representation language used in the European 
Commission funded projects NOMOS (ESPRIT P5330), in the legal domain, COBALT 
(LRE P61-011), in the financial domain, CONCERTO (ESPRIT P29159), in the field 
of intelligent indexing and retrieval of information stored on Internet and 
textual databases, and EUFORBIA (IAP 2104), in the field of intelligent 
filtering of information on Internet. Dr. Zarri was the scientific driving 
force behind all these projects; in particular, he is actually (2002) the 
scientific co-ordinator of the EUFORBIA project, which involves research, 
academic and industrial teams from four European countries (France, Italy, 
Portugal, and United Kingdom). NKRL and its predecessors — e.g., the 
‘metalanguage’ developed in the framework of the RESEDA project 
(RESEDA = REseau SEmantique DocumentAire, Semantic Network for Information 
Retrieval) -— have been built up thanks to the financial support of CNRS, 
of the European Commission, of INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en 
Informatique et Automatique) and of other French Agencies like DGRST 
(Délégation Générale à la Recherche Scientifique et 
Technique) and ADI (Agence de l’Informatique).

More specifically, the aim of NKRL is that of proposing an unambiguous, 
language-neutral, standard representation of the meaning of the so-called 
‘narrative’ documents. In these, the main part of the information 
content consists in the description of facts or events which relate the real or 
intended behaviour of some ‘actors’ (characters, personages): these 
try to attain a specific result, experience particular situations, manipulate 
some (concrete or abstract) materials, deliver or receive messages, etc. 
Narrative documents are of a strong industrial and economic interest: they 
correspond in fact, inter alia, to news stories, telex reports, corporate 
documents (memos, policy statements, reports and minutes), normative texts, 
intelligence messages, etc. From a technical point of view, the most important 
innovation of NKRL with respect to similar knowledge representation tools 
consists in the addition of an ontology of events (a catalogue of standard, 
formalised representation of characteristic situations and events) to the usual 
ontology of concepts. A new version of the main NKRL tools, written in Java and 
XML/RDF compatible, has been realised in the framework of the CONCERTO project.
Dr. Zarri’s record of research is extensive, and he is the author of more 
than one hundred and thirty refereed papers in the fields of Artificial 
Intelligence (Knowledge Representation, Expert Systems, Intelligent Databases), 
Computational Linguistics, Information Retrieval, Application of Computer 
Science Techniques to Humanities and Social Sciences. He has presented his work 
in the most prestigious Conferences of both Artificial Intelligence — 
IJCAI, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, ISMIS, 
International Symposium on the Management of Information Systems, etc. — 
and Computational Linguistics — e.g., COLING, Computational Linguistics 
(International) Conference — see the bibliography. He is the editor of the 
book “Operational Expert Systems Applications in Europe” (Pergamon 
Press, 1991), and co-author, inter alia, of a recent book on “Intelligent 
Database Systems” (Addison-Wesley/ACM Press, January 2001). He received, 
in 1977, the bronze medal of CNRS, in recognition of his outstanding scientific 

Dr Zarri is or has been on the editorial board of some important international 
scientific journals (Computers and the Humanities, Expert Systems for 
Information Management, International Journal of Applied Expert Systems, 
International Journal of Failures and Lessons in Information Technology, 
International Journal of Expert System: Research and Applications, New Review 
of Applied Expert Systems, etc.), and on the Programme Committee of 
international conferences on Knowledge-Based Systems, as the World Congress on 
Expert Systems, the International Symposium on Methodologies for Intelligent 
System (ISMIS), the International Conference on Database and Expert Systems 
Application (DEXA), etc.. 

His present teaching activities concern, mainly, a post-graduate course on 
“Knowledge Representation” at the Institut National de Langues et 
Civilisations Orientales (INALCO, a French Grande École) in Paris. Dr. 
Zarri is also member of the Computer Science Committee of INALCO.
Dr. Zarri has co-operated intensively with industry. After some years, from 
1964 to 1969, spent working at the University of Milan as researcher and 
teacher, he was employed from 1969 to 1973 by Praxis SpA, a high-technology 
Milanese SME working in the field of process control. More recently, he had the 
opportunity to act as consultant both to large industrial groups (e.g., 
Thomson-CSF and Alcatel-Alsthom, France, Olivetti, Italy) and to SMEs (e.g., 
Axon, Portugal, ERLI and STEP Informatique, France, Quinary, Italy). His work 
has consisted, mainly, in : a) helping these companies to set up viable 
consortia able to submit coherent proposals in answer to EC calls (Esprit, LRE 
…) ; b) inspiring the technical work in case of acceptance of such 
proposals — see his role in the context of the NOMOS, COBALT and CONCERTO 
projects mentioned before, or of other, previous Esprit projects like ESB 
(“Expert System Builder”, P96) ; c) more in general, executing some 
technology transfer activities. In 1985, Dr. Zarri has been on leave at Tecsiel 
(Rome, Italy), a firm pertaining to the Finsiel group, as scientific counsellor 
of the President and C.E.O. of the company in the initial phase of the 
Artificial Intelligence activities of this company. From June 1st, 1986, to 
August 31st, 1987, he has been temporarily employed, as project leader in the 
Expert Systems field, by CIMSA SINTRA, subsidiary of the Thomson-CSF group. Dr. 
Zarri has also been involved as an expert in the R&D activities of the European 
Union (information retrieval, Luxembourg) and of UNESCO (expert system 
technologies for the underdeveloped countries).

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