Explaining Linked Data to Your Pro Vice Chancellor

At the JISCEXPO Programme meeting today I led a session on ‘Explaining linked data to your Pro Vice Chancellor’, and this post is a summary of that session. The attendees were: myself (Adrian Stevenson), Rob Hawton, Alex Dutton, and Zeth, with later contributions from Chris Gutteridge.

It seemed clear to us that this is really about focussing on institutional administrative data, as it’s probably harder to sell the idea of providing research data in linked data form to the Pro VC. Linked data probably doesn’t allow you to do things that couldn’t do by other means, but it is easier than other approaches in the long run, once you’ve got your linked data available. Linked Data can be of value without having to be open:

“Southampton’s data is used internally. You could draw a ring around the data and say ‘that’s closed’, and it would still have the same value.”

== Benefits ==

Quantifying the value of linked data efficiencies can be tricky, but providing open data allows quicker development of tools, as the data the tools hook into already exist and are standardised.

== Strategies ==

Don’t mention the term ‘linked data’ to the Pro VC, or get into discussing the technology. It’s about the outcomes and the solutions, not the technologies. Getting ‘Champions’ who have the ear of the Pro VC will help.  Some enticing prototype example mash-up demonstrators that help sell the idea are also important. Also, pointing out that other universities are deploying and using linked open data to their advantage may help. Your University will want to be part of the club.

Making it easy for others to supply data that can be utilised as part of linked data efforts is important. This can be via Google spreadsheets, or e-mailing spreadsheets for example. You need to offload the difficult jobs to the people who are motivated and know what they’re doing.

It will also help to sell the idea to other potential consumers, such as the libraries, and other data providers. Possibly sell on the idea of the “increasing prominence of holdings” for libraries. This helps bring attention and re-use.

It’s worth emphasising that linked data simplifies the Freedom of Infomataion (FOI) process.  We can say “yes, we’ve already published that FOI data”. You have a responsibility to publish this data if asked via FOI anyway. This is an example of a Sheer curation approach.

Linked data may provide decreased bureaucracy. There’s no need to ask other parts of the University for their data, wasting their time, if it’s already published centrally. Examples here are estates, HR, library, student statistics.

== Targets ==

Some possible targets are: saving money, bringing in new business, funding, students.

The potential for increased business intelligence is a great sell, and Linked Data can provide the means to do this. Again, you need to sell a solution to a problem, not a technology. The University ‘implementation’ managers need to be involved and brought on board as well as the as the Pro VC.

It can be a problem that some institutions adopt a ‘best of breed’ policy with technology. Linked data doesn’t fit too well with this. However, it’s worth noting that Linked Data doesn’t need to change the user experience.

A lot of the arguments being made here don’t just apply to linked data. Much is about issues such as opening access to data generally. It was noted that there have been many efforts from JISC to solve the institutional data silo problem.

If we were setting a new University up from scratch, going for Linked Data from the start would be a realistic option, but it’s always hard to change currently embedded practice. Universities having Chief Technology Officers would help here, or perhaps a PVC for Technology?

LOCAH Project – Project Team Relationships and End User Engagement

Project Team

Adrian Stevenson

Adrian Stevenson

Adrian Stevenson is a project manager and researcher at UKOLN. He has managed the highly successful SWORD project since May 2008 and also manages the JISC Information Environment Technical Review project. He has extensive experience of the implementation of interoperability standards, and has a long-standing interest in Linked Data. Adrian will manage LOCAH, and will be involved in the data modelling work, testing and the opportunities and barriers reporting.

Jane Stevenson

Jane Stevenson

Jane Stevenson is the Archives Hub Coordinator at Mimas. In this role, she manages the day-to- day running of the Archives Hub service. She is a registered archivist with substantial experience of cataloguing, implementation of data standards, dissemination and online service provision. She has expertise in the use of Encoded Archival Description for archives, and will be involved in the data modelling work, mapping EAD to RDF, testing as well as the opportunities and barriers reporting.

Pete Johnston

Pete Johnston

Pete Johnston is a Technical Researcher at Eduserv. His work has been primarily in the areas of metadata/resource description, with a particular interest in the use of Semantic Web technologies and the Linked Data approach. He participates in a number of standards development activities, and is an active contributor to the work of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. He was also a co-editor of the Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange (OAI ORE) specifications.

Pete joined Eduserv in May 2006 from UKOLN, University of Bath, where he advised the UK education and cultural heritage communities on strategies for the effective exchange and reuse of information. Pete will be involved in the data modelling work, mapping EAD and MODS to RDF, software testing and the opportunities and barriers report.

Bethan Ruddock

Bethan Ruddock

Bethan Ruddock is involved in content development activity for both the Archives Hub and Copac. She is currently working on a year-long project to help expand the coverage of the Archives Hub through the refinement of our automated data import routines. Bethan also undertakes a range of outreach and promotional activities, collaborating with Lisa on a number of publications. Bethan will be involved in the modelling work of transforming MODS to RDF.

Julian Cheal

Julian Cheal

Julian Cheal is a software developer at UKOLN. He is currently working on the analysis and visualisation of UK open access repository metadata from the RepUK project. He has experience of writing software to process metadata at UKOLN, and has previous development experience at Aberystwyth University. Julian will be mainly involved in developing the prototype and visualisations.

Ashley Sanders

Ashley Sanders

Ashley Sanders is the Senior Developer for Copac, and has been working with the service since his inception. He is currently leading the technical work involved in the Copac Re-Engineering project, which involves a complete overhaul of the service. Ashley will be involved in the development work of transforming MODS to RDF.

Shirley Cousins is a Coordinator for the Copac service. Shirley will be involved in the work of transforming MODS to RDF.

An additional Mimas developer will provide the development work for transforming the Archives Hub EAD data to RDF. This person will be allocated from existing Mimas staff in post.

Talis are our technology partner on the project, kindly providing us with access to store our data in the Talis Store. Leigh Dodds is our main contact at the company. Talis is a privately owned UK company that is amongst the first organisations to be applying leading edge Semantic Web technologies to the creation of real-world solutions. Talis has significant expertise in semantic web and Linked Data technologies, and the Talis Platform has been used by a variety of organisations including the BBC and UK Government as part of data.gov.uk.

OCLC are also partnering us, mainly to help out with VIAF. Our contacts at OCLC are John MacColl, Ralph LeVan and Thom Hickey. OCLC is a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Its public purpose is to work with its members to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration. Its Research Division works with the community to identify problems and opportunities, prototype and test solutions, and share findings through publications, presentations and professional interactions.

Engagement with the Community

Stakeholders

Several key stakeholder groups have been identified: end users, particularly historical researchers, students & educators; data providers, including RLUK and the libraries & archives that contribute data to the services; the developer community; the library community; the archival sector and more broadly, the cultural heritage sector.

End users

Copac and the Archives Hub services are heavily used by historical researchers and educators. Copac is one of JISC’s most heavily used services, averaging around one million sessions per month. Around 48% of HE research usage can be attributed historical research. Both services can directly engage relevant end users, and have done so successfully in the past to conduct market research or solicit feedback on service developments. In addition, channels such as twitter can be used to reach end users, particularly the digital humanities community.

Data providers; Library Community; Archival Community; Cultural Heritage Sector

Through the Copac and Archives Hub Steering Committees we have the means to consult with a wide range of representatives from the library and archival sectors. The project partners have well- established links with stakeholders such as RLUK, SCONUL, and the UK Archives Discovery Network, which represents all the key UK archives networks including The National Archives and the Scottish Archives Networks. The Archives Hub delivers training and support to the UK archives community, and can effectively engage its contributors through workshops, fora, and social media. OCLC’s community engagement channels will also provide a valuable means of sharing project outputs for feedback internationally. The key project partners are also engaged in the Resource Discovery Taskforce Vision implementation planning, as well as the JISC/SCONUL Shared Services Proposal. Outputs from this project will be shared in both these contexts. In addition, we will proactively share information with bodies such as the MLA, Collections Trust and Culture24.

Developer Community

As a JISC innovation support centre, UKOLN is uniquely placed to engage the developer community through initiatives such as the DevCSI programme, which is aimed at helping developers in HE to realise their full potential by creating the conditions for them to be able to learn, to network effectively, to share ideas and to collaborate.

Dissemination

The primary channel for disseminating the project outputs will be the UKOLN hosted blog. End users will be primarily engaged for survey feedback via the Copac and Archives Hub services. Social media will be used to reach subject groups with active online communities (e.g. Digital Humanities). Information aimed at the library and archival community, including data providers, will be disseminated through reports to service Steering Group meetings, UKAD meetings, the Resource Discovery Taskforce Vision group, the JISC/SCONUL Shared Services Proposal Group, as well as professional listservs. Conference presentations and demonstrations will be proposed for events such as ILI, Online Information, and JISC conferences. An article will be written for Ariadne. The developer community will be engaged primarily through the project blog, twitter, developer events & the Linked Data competition.