Thursday, 26 January 2012

Discovering the Discovery Programme

As we are still funded by JISC, you may not have realised that the second phase of Pelagios is actually part of a different programme (also in its second phase, as it happens): the Resource Discovery Programme. Its aims are to help academics and students discover content relevant to their research interests. In particular they are interested in resources that are openly available to anyone. As part of that programme we will be attending several events organised by JISC in order to interact with our sister projects, and learn from each other.

The first meeting was held in Birmingham on January 10th and broke down into two parts. In the first half representatives from each project gave a short (5 minute) presentation about what they intend to achieve. It was interesting to me to see how many projects have a textual angle, especially given that texts are fundamental to Pelagios partners like GAP and Perseus. One project that particularly caught my eye is DiscoverEDINA who (among other things) will be looking to improve the place-based metadata associated with media resources. It's early days for them yet but there may well be opportunities for our projects to learn from each other.

The second part of the day was a series of rotating group discussions on topics associated with data access and usability. These were relatively short and snappy affairs and principally an opportunity for JISC to get a feel for the state of play amongst the groups concerned. They were also intended to trigger our own thinking about such issues and the day ended with a request that each group respond to a series of issues throughout the lifetime of its blog. They are:
  • Adopting open licensing
  • Requiring clear reasonable terms and conditions
  • Using easily understood data models
  • Deploying persistent identifiers
  • Establishing data relationships by re-using authoritative identifiers
  • Providing clear mechanisms for accessing APIs
  • Documenting APIs
  • Adopting widely understood data formats
What I found notable was a broad interest, if not wholesale adoption, of semantic approaches across the groups. Anyone who's read my PhD thesis (anyone?) will know that I think semantic technologies really only come into their own in an open data environment, so this seems positive to me. I'm also glad to see that JISC have broken down many of the challenges concerned (especially minting and re-using identifiers) so that they can be addressed independently. None of these are trivial issues and although there's no space to start delving into them here, expect to hear more from us about these topics as Pelagios continues to unfold.

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