Resolving Conflict and Inconsistency in Norm-Regulated Virtual Organizations

Wamberto W M P D Vasconcelos, Martin Kollingbaum, Timothy J Norman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished conference contribution


Norm-governed virtual organizations define, govern and facilitate coordinated resource sharing and problem solving in societies of agents. With an explicit account of norms, openness in virtual organizations can be achieved: new components, designed by various parties, can be seamlessly accommodated. We focus on virtual organizations realised as multi-agent systems, in which human and software agents interact to achieve individual and global goals. However, any realistic account of norms should address their dynamic nature: norms will change as agents interact with each other and their environment. Due to the changing nature of norms or due to norms stemming from different virtual organizations, there will be situations when an action is simultaneously permitted and prohibited, that is, a conflict arises. Likewise, there will be situations when an action is both obliged and prohibited, that is, an inconsistency arises. We introduce an approach, based on first-order unification, to detect and resolve such conflicts and inconsistencies. In our proposed solution, we annotate a norm with the set of values their variables should not have in order to avoid a conflict or an inconsistency with another norm. Our approach neatly accommodates the domain-dependent interrelations among actions and the indirect conflicts/inconsistencies these may cause. More generally, we can capture a useful notion of inter-agent (and inter-role) delegation of actions and norms associated to them, and use it to address conflicts/inconsistencies caused by action delegation. We illustrate our approach with an e-Science example in which agents support Grid services.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Sixth International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems
EditorsEdmund H. Durfee, Makoto Yokoo, Michael N. Huhns, Onn Shehory
Place of PublicationNew York, USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9788190426275
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • artificial social systems
  • conventions
  • institutions
  • norms


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