The VLDB Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 249–275 | Cite as

A unified approach to ranking in probabilistic databases

  • Jian Li
  • Barna Saha
  • Amol Deshpande
Special Issue Paper


Ranking is a fundamental operation in data analysis and decision support and plays an even more crucial role if the dataset being explored exhibits uncertainty. This has led to much work in understanding how to rank the tuples in a probabilistic dataset in recent years. In this article, we present a unified approach to ranking and top-k query processing in probabilistic databases by viewing it as a multi-criterion optimization problem and by deriving a set of features that capture the key properties of a probabilistic dataset that dictate the ranked result. We contend that a single, specific ranking function may not suffice for probabilistic databases, and we instead propose two parameterized ranking functions, called PRF ω and PRF e, that generalize or can approximate many of the previously proposed ranking functions. We present novel generating functions-based algorithms for efficiently ranking large datasets according to these ranking functions, even if the datasets exhibit complex correlations modeled using probabilistic and/xor trees or Markov networks. We further propose that the parameters of the ranking function be learned from user preferences, and we develop an approach to learn those parameters. Finally, we present a comprehensive experimental study that illustrates the effectiveness of our parameterized ranking functions, especially PRF e, at approximating other ranking functions and the scalability of our proposed algorithms for exact or approximate ranking.


Probabilistic databases Ranking Learning to rank Approximation techniques Graphical models 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computer Science DepartmentUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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