The goal of data integration is to provide a uniform access to a set of heterogeneous data sources, freeing the user from the knowledge about where the data are, how they are stored, and how they can be accessed. One of the outcomes of the research work carried out on data integration in the last years is a clear architecture, comprising a global schema, the source schema, and the mapping between the source and the global schema. Although in many research works and commercial tools the global schema is simply a data structure integrating the data at the sources, we argue that the global schema should represent, instead, the conceptual model of the domain. However, to fully pursue such an approach, several challenging issues are to be addressed. The main goal of this paper is to analyze one of them, namely, how to express the conceptual model representing the global schema. We start our analysis with the case where such a schema is expressed in terms of a UML class diagram, and we end up with a proposal of a particular Description Logic, called
. We show that the data integration framework based on such a logic has several interesting properties, including the fact that both reasoning at design time, and answering queries at run time can be done efficiently.