Using Jena and SHACL to validate RDF Data

RDF enables users to capture data in a way that is intuitive to them. This means that data is often captured without conforming to any schema. It is often useful to know that an RDF dataset conforms to some (potential partial) schema. This is where SHACL (SHApe Constraint Language), a W3C standard, comes into play. It is a language for describing and validating RDF graphs. In this post I will give a brief overview of how to use SHACL to validate RDF data using the Jena implementation of SHACL.

A SHACL Example

We will use an example from the SHACL specification. Assume we have a file person.ttl that contains the following data:


Example RDF data

To validate this data we create a shape definition in personShape.ttl containing:


Person shape definition

A Code Example using Jena

To validate our RDF data using our SHACL shape we will use the Jena implementation of SHACL. Start by adding the SHACL dependency to your Maven pom.xml. Note that you do not need to add Jena as well as the SHACL pom already includes Jena.


SHACL Maven dependency

In the code we will assume the person.ttl and personShape.ttl files are in $Project/src/main/resources/. The code for doing the validation is the following then:


Java code using Jena implementation of SHACL

Running the Code

Running the code will cause a report.ttl file to be written out to $Project/src/main/resources/. We can determine that our data does not conform by checking the sh:conforms property. We have 4 violations of our ex:PersonShape:

  1. For ex:Alice the ex:ssn property does not conform to the pattern defined in the shape.
  2. ex:Bob has 2 ex:ssn properties.
  3. ex:Calvin works for a company that is not of type ex:Company.
  4. ex:Calvin has a property ex:birthDate that is not allowed by ex:PersonShape since it is close by sh:closed true.

A corrected version of our person data may look as follows:


Person data that conforms to our person shape


In this post I have given a brief overview of how SHACL can be used to validate RDF data using the SHACL implementation of Jena. This code example is available at shacl tutorial.

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