Ten years ago, I submited the final version of my PhD thesis: The Interpretation of Tables in Texts. At the time, there wasn't a huge amount of research going on in the space. Those working in the area pretty much all knew each other and would meet at a couple of conferences, generally in the OCR community as there wasn't much interest in table understanding in other research areas.
Now, there is quite a healthy interest in table understanding due in part to the promise of tabular data being a reasonable way to bootstrap semantic relationships via the large scale mining of the web.
Most recently, I spotted this paper by Finin et al :Exploiting a Web of Semantic Data for Interpreting Tables, WebSci10, 2010 which echoes much of the promise of the 'first generation' of table understanding work by the likes of myself, Dan Lopresti, Thomas Kieninger, Jianying Hu, etc. In fact, the motivating example in that paper:
with the later also illustrating to some extent the complexity of table semantics.
I'm still very much interested in tabular data. Perhaps as it represents the simplest transition point from textual presentations of information to graphical, or topological representations of information.
For posterity, I've embeded the Scribd incarnation of my thesis below.2000 - Hurst (PhD Thesis) - The Interpretation of Tables in Texts