Valda Seminar: Anantha Padmanabha

20 May 2022, 10:30-11:30.

ENS S16.

Algorithm for consistent query answering under primary key constraints

Databases often have constraints. One of the basic constraints is the “primary key constraint” which states there can be at most one tuple for every primary key. However, these days it is common to have databases that violate such constraints which is called an “inconsistent database”. In particular, if a database violates primary key constraint, it will contain more than one tuple for the same primary key. In this setting, the notion of a repair is defined by picking exactly one tuple for each primary key (maximal consistent subset of the database). A Boolean conjunctive query q, is certain for an inconsistent database D if q evaluates to true over all repairs of D. In this context, we have a dichotomy conjecture that states that for a fixed boolean conjunctive query q, testing whether q is certain for an input database D is either polynomial time or coNP-complete.

The conjecture is open in general, but has been verified for self-join-free and path queries. However, the polynomial time algorithms known in the literature are complex and use different strategies in the two cases.  We propose a simple inflationary fixpoint algorithm for consistent query answering which  correctly computes certain answers when the query q falls in the polynomial time cases for self-join-free queries and path queries.  This raises a natural question, whether this algorithm works for all polynomial time cases. We answer this negatively and show that there are polynomial time certain queries (with self-joins) which cannot be computed by such an algorithm.

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