The project will be managed according to JISC guidelines for intellectual property. Any custom-built prototype outputs will be made available under open-source license free of charge to the UK HE and FE community. There may be some rights restrictions relating to the Copac and Hub data content due to data licensing issues. These will be explored and addressed as part of the project.
|Difficulties recruiting or retaining staff||2||4||8||Key members of staff already in post at UKOLN, Mimas and Eduserv|
|Project is over-ambitious||2||2||4||The project plan will ensure that deliverables are delivered in a timely fashion and the project does not divert from agreed goals.|
|Failure to meet deadlines within the project timescale||2||4||8||Clear project plan with all relevant tasks outlined, continuous review and rescheduling of work as necessary|
|Failure to disseminate best practices effectively||2||2||4||UKOLN has very effective dissemination channels. The involvement of partners who can gain clear benefits from this work will allow them to be involved in dissemination activities.|
|Project partners fail to work effectively||1||3||3||UKOLN has good links with all the partners, many through previous joint projects and recent consultancy work. A consortium agreement with address potential concerns.|
LOCAH will be evaluated by a number of means including qualitative and quantitative methods, and will look at both the tangible and intangible outputs of the project. We will regularly check progress against the project plan and requirements, and we will engage with users through the blog, social media, questionnaires and events. The project manager will lead the evaluation, liaising with relevant parties and drawing on contacts within the JISC community and wider HE community.
Several members of the project team are closely involved with current Linked Data activities, and are fully aware of the current ‘state of the art’ against which the impact of the project will be evaluated. The immediate impact of the project will be to provide two new enriched and quality assured data sets to the UK HE and global data graph. It will also provide a prototype that highlights the potential of Linked Data for enhancing learning, teaching and research. The long-term impact will be to help Linked Data gain traction and achieve a critical mass in the UK HE community, as well as providing invaluable experience and insight on a range of issues. Mimas intends to sustain the Linked Data sets, and will ensure that the resources have stable URIs for two years beyond the life of the project. The project may be able to transition to using the Talis Connected Commons scheme if the licensing situation can be clarified. This would then provide long-term sustainability for the data publishing.
Meeting a need
High quality research and teaching relies partly on access to a broad range of resources. Archive and library materials inform and enhance knowledge and are central to the JISC strategy. JISC invests in bibliographic and archival metadata services to enable discovery of, and access to, those materials, and we know the research, teaching and learning communities value those services.
As articulated in the Resource Discovery Taskforce Vision, that value could be increased if the data can be made to “work harder”, to be used in different ways and repurposed in different contexts.
Providing bibliographic and archive data as Linked Data creates links with other data sources, and allows the development of new channels into the data. Researchers are more likely to discover sources that may materially affect their research outcomes, and the ‘hidden’ collections of archives and special collections are more likely to be exposed and used.
Archive data is by its nature incomplete and often sources are hidden and little known. User studies and log analyses indicate that Archives Hub1 users frequently search laterally through the descriptions; this gives them a way to make serendipitous discoveries. Linked data is a way of vastly expanding the benefits of lateral search, helping users discover contextually related materials. Creating links between archival collections and other sources is crucial – archives relating to the same people, organisations, places and subjects are often widely dispersed. By bringing these together intellectually, new discoveries can be made about the life and work of an individual or the circumstances surrounding important historical events. New connections, new relationships, new ideas about our history and society. Put this together with other data sources, such as special collections, multimedia repositories and geographic information systems, and the opportunities for discovery are significantly increased.
Similarly, by making Copac bibliographic data available as Linked Data we can increase the opportunities for developers to provide contextual links to primary and secondary source material held within the UK’s research libraries and an increasing number of specialist libraries, including the British Museum, the National Trust, and the Royal Society. The provision of library and special collections content as Linked Data will allow developers to build interfaces to link contextually related historical sources that may have been curated and described using differing methodologies. The differences in these methodologies and the emerging standards for description and access have resulted in distinct challenges in providing meaningful cross-searching and interlinking of this related content – a Linked Data approach offers potential to overcome that significant hurdle.
Researchers and teachers will have the ability to repurpose data for their own specific use. Linked Data provides flexibility for people to create their own pathways through Archives Hub and Copac data alongside other data sources. Developers will be able to provide applications and visualisations tailored to the needs of researchers, learning environments, institutional and project goals.
Archives are described hierarchically, and this presents challenges for the output of Linked Data. In addition, descriptions are a combination of structured data and semi-structured data. As part of this project, we will explore the challenges in working with semi-structured data, which can potentially provide a very rich source of information. The biographical histories for creators of archives may provide unique information that has been based on the archival source. Extracting event-based data from this can really open up the potential of the archival description to be so much more than the representation of an archive collection. It becomes a much more multi-faceted resource, providing data about people, organisations, places and events.
The library community is beginning to explore the potential of Linked Data. The Swedish and Hungarian National Libraries have exposed their catalogues as Linked Data, the Library of Congress has exposed subject authority data (LCSH), and OCLC is now involved in making the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) available in this way.
By treating the entities (people, places, concepts etc) referred to in bibliographic data as resources in their own right, links can be made to other data referring to those same resources. Those other sources can be used to enrich the presentation of bibliographic data, and the bibliographic data can be used in conjunction with other data sources to create new applications.
Copac is the largest union catalogue of bibliographic data in the UK, and one of the largest in the world, and its exposure as Linked Data can provide a rich data source, of particular value to the research, learning and teaching communities.
In answering the call, we will be able to report on the challenges of the project, and how we have approached them. This will be of benefit to all institutions with bibliographic and archival data looking to maximise its potential. We are very well placed within the research and teaching communities to share our experiences and findings.
This is the first of a number of posts outlining our project plan in line with the requirements of the call document. So here we are – our aims, objectives and intended final outputs:
The LOCAH project aims to make records from the JISC funded Archives Hub service, and records from the JISC funded Copac service available as Linked Data. In each case, the aim is to provide persistent URIs for the key entities described in that data, dereferencing to documents describing those entities. The information will be made available as web pages in XHTML containing RDFa and also Linked Data RDF/XML. SPARQL endpoints will be provided to enable the data to be queried. In addition, consideration will be given to the provision of a simple query API for some common queries.
Making resources available as structured data
The work will involve:
- Analysis & modelling of the current data and the selection (or definition) of appropriate RDF vocabularies.
- Design of suitable URI patterns (based on the current guidelines for UK government data).
- Development of procedures to transform existing data formats to RDF. Either:
- uploading of that transformed data to an RDF store (such as a Talis Platform instance ) and development of application to serve data from that store, or
- development of an application to serve RDF data from an existing data store.
- We intend to enhance the source data with links between these two datasets and with existing Linked Data sets made available by other parties (e.g. DBpedia, Geonames, the Virtual International Authority File, Library of Congress’ Subject headings). This process may include simple name lookups and also the use of services such as EDINA Unlock, OpenCalais and Muddy to identify entities from text fragments. Given that Copac is in a transition phase to a new database during the project, we will be taking a more lightweight approach to structuring and enhancing Copac data. We will then be able to make a comparison between the outcomes of a lightweight rapid approach to producing Linked Data for Copac, and the relatively resource intensive data enrichment approach for the Archives Hub.
- We will look to provide resources such as dataset-level descriptions (using vOID and/or DCat) and semantic sitemaps.
- The project will adopt a lightweight iterative approach to the development and testing of the exposed structured content. This will involve the rapid development of interfaces to Hub and Copac data that will be tested against existing third party Linked Data tools and data sets. The evaluated results will feed into the further phases of development.
The former will be the case for the Hub data; the latter is likely to be used for Copac.
The result will be the availability of two new quality-assured datasets which are “meshable” with other global Linked Data sources. In addition, the documents made available will be accessible to all the usual web search and indexing services such as Google, contributing to their searchability and findability, and thereby raising the profile of these Mimas JISC services to research users. In common parlance, the resources will have more “Google juice”.
Prototype Data Visualisations
We also suggest a number of end user prototype ideas. These would provide attractive and compelling data visualisations based around a number of visualisation concepts. We intend to produce one prototype. We intend to use the ideas suggested as the basis for this, but given the iterative nature of the project, it may end up being something quite different. We will produce additional prototypes if time and resources allow.
The project intends to hold a small developer competition to gather further end use cases and prototype ideas run by the UKOLN DevCSI team on behalf of the project.
Opportunities and Barriers Reporting
We will log ongoing projects issues as they arise to inform our opportunities and barriers reporting that we will deliver via posts on the LOCAH project blog. We will outline and discuss the methods and solutions we have adopted to overcome, mediate or mitigate against these, wherever this has been possible.
The methods and solutions we establish will iteratively feed into the ongoing development process. This will mean that we are able to work out solutions to issues as they arise, and implement them in the next phase of rapid development.
We are keen to engage with the other projects funded as part of the jiscExpo call, and any additional UK HE projects working at implementing Linked Data solutions. The project team has very strong links with the Linked Data community: we will look to engage the community by stimulating debate about implementation problems via the project blog. We will also set up a project Twitter feed to generate discussion on the project #locah tag. In addition, we will engage via relevant JISCmail lists as well as the UK Government Data Developers and the Linked Data API Google discussion groups that several members of the team are already part of.
Welcome to our project blog, just set up today. Lots more to come, but here’s a news item Jane Stevenson from Mimas has written to get us going:
Mimas and UKOLN are working together on an exciting JISC funded project to make our Archives Hub and Copac data available as structured Linked Data, for the benefit of education and research. We will also be working in partnership with Eduserv, Talis and OCLC, leading experts within their fields. We want to put archival and bibliographic data at the heart of the Linked Data Web, enabling new links to be made between diverse content sources and enabling the free and flexible exploration of data so that researchers can make new connections between subjects, people, organisations and places to reveal more about our history and society.
Linked Data uses the RDF data model to identify concepts and to describe relationships between those concepts. It promotes the idea of a Web of data rather than a Web of documents. The more document-centric approach, based on Web pages, does not readily expose data within the text in a way that applications can process, so the wealth of information within a page is of limited value. Both the Archives Hub and Copac have so much rich data within them, and with Linked Data it can be brought to the fore by structuring concepts within the data it in a way that identifies them and facilitates linking to them. Data can be combined in a way that results in new correlations, new perspectives and new discoveries.
Mimas is keen to explore new ways to open up data for the benefit our users. Providing bibliographic and archive data as Linked Data enables links with other data sources and creates new channels into the data. Researchers are more likely to discover sources that may materially affect their research outcomes. It means that we can give researchers the potential to combine data sources for themselves, so that we do not need to predict the use of the data.
We know that researchers using the Hub or Copac are sometimes looking for a particular piece of information, such as a photograph of a library, or the birth date of a writer, or the location of an event. Linked Data can be valuable here because it helps to pin down concepts. If a researcher is looking for a photograph of John Rylands Library in Manchester, for example, Linked Data can clarify the concepts – a photograph, the library, ‘John Rylands’ as the name of a library, ‘John Rylands’ as a Victorian philanthropist, ‘Manchester’ as a place in England. It enables us to link across to other sources that can provide further information about these concepts. If a researcher is gathering information around a subject area, they can benefit from the linking concept and explore the Web much more fully because the data is no longer held within silos.
Archive data is by its nature incomplete and often potentially valuable sources are difficult to identify. Bibliographic data is vast and it can be difficult to make useful connections. Researchers frequently search laterally through the descriptions, giving them a way to make serendipitous discoveries. Linked Data could potentially vastly expand the benefits of lateral search, helping users discover contextually related materials. Creating links just between cultural heritage collections can bring great benefits – archives, artifacts and published works relating to the same people, organisations, places and subjects are often widely dispersed. By bringing these together intellectually, new discoveries can be made about the life and work of an individual or the circumstances surrounding important historical events. New connections, new relationships, new ideas about our history and society. Put this together with other data sources, such as special collections, multimedia repositories and geographic information systems, and the opportunities for discovery are significantly increased. A Linked Data approach offers potential to overcome differences in methodologies and standards for description and access which can hinder meaningful cross-searching and interlinking of related content.
Linked Data can enable researchers and teachers to repurpose data for their own specific use. It provides flexibility for people to create their own pathways through Archives Hub and Copac data alongside other data sources. Developers will be able to provide applications and visualisations tailored to the needs of researchers, learning environments, institutional and project goals.
This project, named LOCAH (Linked Open Copac and Archives Hub), is exploratory and real world applications of Linked Data are still in the early stages. Whilst the benefits could be extensive, we know that there are challenges, and in particular concerns about the resources required to create Linked Data and the availability of tools to make use of it. A number of key data sources are now available as Linked Data, such as BBC data, Wikipedia and Government datasets. In addition, developers are busy creating tools to make the data easy to query and process. By getting involved in this creating Linked Data, we can explore the benefits and pitfalls in exposing archival and bibliographic data in this way. This is a project that enables us to contribute to a global effort to unlock the enormous potential within our data for the benefit of researchers and society as a whole.