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Genoa: The Structured Evidential Argumentation System

Genoa  Principal Investigator:  John D Lowrance

Mailing address:
AI Center
SRI International
333 Ravenswood Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3493

AIC Program:  Representation and Reasoning

Project home page at

   Project Description

Under this effort we developed the Structured Evidential Argumentation System (SEAS) to aid intelligence analysts in predicting potential crises/opportunities. It is implemented as a web server that supports the construction and exploitation of a corporate memory filled with analytic products and methods, indexed by the situations to which they apply. Objects from this corporate memory are viewed and edited through the use of a standard browser client, with the SEAS server producing ephemeral HTML based upon the contents of the SEAS knowledge base that constitutes corporate memory.

The foundation of this corporate memory is an ontology of arguments and situations that includes three main types of formal objects: argument templates, arguments, and situation descriptors. Roughly speaking, an argument template records an analytic method as a hierarchically structured set of interrelated questions, an argument instantiates an argument template by answering the questions posed relative to a specific situation in the world, and situation descriptors characterize the type of situations for which the argument templates were designed and the specific situations that arguments address.

SEAS emphasizes the use of simple and regular inference structures as the foundation of its argument templates, making the reasoning easy to follow and making it possible for analysts to independently author new templates. When authoring an argument template, the analyst first selects an inference structure and then tailors the questions and multiple-choice answers to fit. Argument templates include discovery tools, recommended methods of acquiring information pertaining to the questions posed by the template. An analyst wanting to record an argument, selects an appropriate template given the situation, uses the discovery tools to retrieve potentially relevant information, selects that information to retain as part of the argument and records its relevance to the questions at hand, answers the multiple-choice questions by selecting those answers that bound what is known, and records the rationale for the answers selected.

This structured argumentation methodology encourages a careful analysis by reminding the analyst of the full spectrum of indicators to be considered, eases argument comprehension by allowing the analyst to "drill down" along the component lines of reasoning to discover the basis and rationale of othersÂ’ arguments, and invites and facilitates argument comparison by framing arguments within common structures. We believe that our structured argumentation methodology, as implemented in SEAS, has shown that the addition of even minimal structure into the analytic process can aid analysts in developing, communicating, explaining, and comparing analytic results. An important aspect of this methodology is the retention of direct links to the source material and its interpretation relative to the conclusions drawn, allowing analysts to readily comprehend the thinking of others. This, coupled with a collaborative environment and a corporate memory of analytic thought, retaining the analytic methods and products of an enterprise, allows analysts to leverage the thinking of others both past and present. Finally, even though our methodology was motivated by the desire to help human analysts, it lays the groundwork for the introduction of automated methods to substantially aid or partially supplant human analytic reasoning. We contend that this methodology complements those knowledge capturing methodologies that strive to formally represent human knowledge in rich ontological structures.


Name Title E-mail
Harrison, Ian W Alumnus
Lowrance, John D Program Director
Rodriguez, Andres C Computer Scientist

SEAS: Structured Evidential Argumentation System
SEAS is a tool to aid analysts in reasoning about potential opportunities/crises. It records analytic thinking in structured arguments, provides a collaborative environment in which multiple analysts can simultaneously contribute to arguments, and retains a coproate memory of the evolution of analytic thinking over time.

  • Mishra, S. and Rodriguez, A. and Eriksen, M. and Chaudhri, V. and Lowrance, J. and Murray, K. and Thomere, J. Lightweight solutions for user interfaces over the WWW, in Proceedings of the International Lisp Conference, 2002.  [PDF, Details]

  • Lowrance, J., Harrison, I., and Rodriguez, A. SEAS Help System. 333 Ravenswood Avel, Menlo Park, CA 94025, SRI International, Dec 2001.  [Details]

  • Lowrance, John D., Harrison, Ian W., and Rodriguez, Andres C. Capturing Analytic Thought. Proceeding of the First International Conference on Knowledge Capture, pp. 84-91, October 2001.  [Details]

  • Lowrance, John D. and Harrison, Ian W. and Rodriguez, Andres C. Structured Argumentation for Analysis, in Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics, and Cybernetics: Focus Symposia on Advances in Computer-Based and Web-Based Collaborative Systems, Baden-Baden, Germany, pp. 47-57, Aug 2000.  [PDF, Details]

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