Short Bio

Luc Moreau is a Professor of Computer Science and Head of the department of Informatics, at King's College London. Before joining King's, Luc was Head of the Web and Internet Science, in the department of Electronics and Computer Science, at the University of Southampton.

Luc was co-chair of the W3C Provenance Working Group, which resulted in four W3C Recommendations and nine W3C Notes, specifying PROV, a conceptual data model for provenance the Web, and its serializations in various Web languages. Previously, he initiated the successful Provenance Challenge series, which saw the involvement of over 20 institutions investigating provenance inter-operability in 3 successive challenges, and which resulted in the specification of the community Open Provenance Model (OPM). Before that, he led the development of provenance technology in the FP6 Provenance project and the Provenance Aware Service Oriented Architecture (PASOA) project.

He is on the editorial board of "PeerJ Computer Science" and previously he was editor-in-chief of the journal "Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience" and on the editorial board of "ACM Transactions on Internet Technology".


Luc Moreau is an internationally­recognised computer scientist, who began his career with a strong interest in software technology. He initially focused on the semantics of programming constructs (such as first-class continuations and dynamic binding), which are frequently exploited by programmers in large program development, but relatively poorly understood in the context of functional languages. Using formalisms such as the lambda calculus and abstract machines, he proposed final solutions to long­standing open problems such as the semantics of dynamic binding and control operators in the presence of concurrency [Dynamic], [Future]. These solutions are critical in the understanding of non­functional features of programming languages. Such constructs, or variants of them, are being used in modern languages such as Scala and clojure.

Based on this notion of abstract machine, Moreau developed a novel approach to model distributed algorithms and prove their correctness (safety and liveness). The approach is particularly suited to the derivation of mechanical proofs, with automated theorem provers, ensuring the robustness of proofs. This approach was applied to various aspects of computer science, such as distributed reference counting, mobile agents, and hypertexts. He conceived an original distributed reference counting algorithm that reduces the dependency on intermediary nodes (with a technique called rerooting) and therefore makes it more resilient [Rerooting], and he provided the first mechanical proof for such a type of algorithms [Rerooting Proof]; to achieve this proof, he used the COQ theorem prover. He subsequently successfully applied the approach to the distributed reference counting algorithm deployed in the Java VM [Birrell]. The approach of abstract machine was applied to characterise a message routing algorithms for mobile agents, and study its robustness in the presence of failures; a mechanical proof was also produced in that context [Forwarding]. Finally, the same approach was applied to hypertext systems, the most famous of which is the World Wide Web, providing a formalisation of linking mechanisms and the navigation paths they entail [Hypertext]. This was subsequently followed by the definition of “FOHM”, the Fundamental Open Hypertext Model regarded by the hypertext community as one of its reference models [FOHM].

In the context of the UK eScience project, Moreau led the design of the GRIMOIRES, a standardised registry featuring extension supporting semantic descriptions of services. It was a critical component of a “Semantic Grid”, since it allowed service discovery and their dynamic composition [Grimoires]. Grimoires became the official OMII-UK registry and was, once upon a time, deployed on the National Grid Service, hosted at the University of Edinburgh.

Luc Moreau investigated various decentralised coordination mechanisms for distributed systems. In particular, he proposed an original market approach to recommender systems, the first academic study of this type, in which the user browser space is seen as a finite resource whose access is controlled by market mechanisms with sound economics principles [Recommender] (this kind of approach is now commonly used in web advertising). He also was a co-investigator of the flagship Programme Grant Orchid, studying the science of Human Agent Collectives, assemblages of computer systems and people: the project won a best paper award on innovation track at AAMAS 2015, for its solution on Emergency Response [HAC-ER], and was the best collaborative engineering project in the UK in 2016.

This interest in large scale decentralised systems, the WWW, and data management techniques, led him to recognize how crucial provenance is to determine the quality of data. He was the first to posit the idea [White Paper] that a shared data model is necessary to describe the provenance of data that flows across heterogeneous systems. He demonstrated the technical feasibility of this reconceptualization of the database notion of provenance, and its substantial benefits. He built a community momentum around this vision, at the International Provenance and Annotation Workshop series [IPAW] and at the Provenance Challenge series [Provenance Challenge], and he ultimately led a standardisation activity that resulted in PROV a standard for provenance on the Web [PROV-OVERVIEW].

He made significant contributions to the science and engineering of provenance, such as data models and semantics [Temporal Semantics], algorithms to process provenance, and innovative techniques to apply machine learning to provenance networks. Moreau designed software engineering methodologies [PRIME] and approaches to help potential adopters of provenance design, build and maintain systems that record provenance [PROV-Template]. By using various metrics, he has shown that such methodologies and approaches help developers design, write, and maintain software that generates provenance. He also co-authored the first book about the PROV standard to be published, which also contains some "recipes" to design provenance.

Provenance-Related Activities

In 2006, he launched the Provenance Challenge series [Provenance Challenge], involving over 20 teams over 3 separate events, spanning 3 years. He fostered a strong community momentum, by organizing a total of 5 workshops, in which that community was involved in the design of the challenges and the sharing of findings. He organised and edited two journal special issues. A key outcome of the Provenance Challenge is a provenance model, the Open Provenance Model (OPM) [OPM], which was exploited in the third Provenance Challenge. OPM is the first ever community-designed provenance model and was a precursor to a standardisation activity.

In 2011-2013, Luc Moreau co-chaired the Provenance Working Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standardization body for the Web [Provenance WG]. The group had over 50 members, including companies and organisations such as IBM, Oracle, NASA, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, several semantic web companies, and a range of universities and invited experts. Besides the group leadership and management responsibilities, he actively co-edited 3 (of the 4) normative documents produced by the group, and 2 (of the 9) technical specifications. The outcome, the PROV model, is now adopted in the scientific community, and in commercial and governmental organisations, and is being applied in specific domains, such as healthcare, neuro-imaging and scientific workflows.

Complementing the software engineering effort, he has led a team of developers developing software for provenance processing. Two key libraries, ProvToolbox and ProvPi, offer core provenance-related functionality in Java [ProvToolbox] and Python [ProvPi], respectively. These libraries are regularly downloaded by third parties, and have been involved in the inter-operability demonstration of the W3C standardization process. To date, they are still the only software components of this kind. These libraries are core to some public live services to store and process provenance hosted at Southampton: ProvStore is the only service to store provenance, whereas ProvValidator is the only live service for validating provenance documents [Provenance Tool Suite].

He helped bring together scholarly work on provenance by creating the International Provenance and Annotation Workshop (IPAW) series, which he chaired the steering committee of, for 10 years [IPAW]. Proceedings were published by Springer. The workshops were organised in the US (5 times) and Europe (1 x). Recently, he organised Provenance Week, which collocated IPAW with other Provenance workshops, bringing flagship activities for this community under a single umbrella organisation.