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Theodora Middleton - December 20, 2011 in External, WG Cultural Heritage, WG Humanities, WG Open Bibliographic Data

The following guest post is by Jon Voss, whose projects include History Pin and Civil War Data 150.

I recently traveled to Wellington, New Zealand to take part in the National Digital Forum of New Zealand (#ndf2011), which was held at the national museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. Following the conference, the amazing team at Digital NZ hosted and organized a Linked Open Data in Libraries, Archives & Museums unconference (#lodlam). The two events were well attended by Kiwis as well as a large number of international attendees from Australia, and a few from as far as the US, UK and Germany.

When it comes to innovative digital initiatives in cultural heritage, the rest of the world has been looking to New Zealand and Australia for some time. Federated metadata exchanges and search has been happening across institutions in projects like Digital NZ and Trove. I was able to learn more about the Digital NZ APIs as well as those from Museum Victoria, Powerhouse Museum, and State Records New South Wales. In fact, the remarkable proliferation of APIs in Australasia has allowed us to consider the possibilities of Linked Open Data to harvest and build upon data held in databases in multiple institutions.

Given the extent to which tools for opening access to data have been developed here, I was surprised by the level of frustration that exists around copyright issues. There’s a clear sense that government is moving too slowly in making materials available to the public with open licensing. We talked a lot about the idea of separately licensing metadata and assets (i.e. information about a photo vs the digital copy of the photo), as has been happening across Europe and increasingly the United States. There are strong advocates within the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives & museums) here, and demonstrating use cases utilizing openly licensed metadata will go far in helping to move those conversations forward with policy makers.

To that end, a session was convened to explore the possibilities of an international LODLAM project focused on World War I, the centennial commemoration of which is fast approaching. The Civil War Data 150 project we’ve been slowly moving forward in the US may provide a rough framework to build from. At least a half dozen or more libraries, archives and museums have expressed interest in participating in a WWI project already. First steps may be identifying openly licensed datasets to be contributed, key vocabularies and ontologies to apply, and ideas for visualizations that would leverage the use of Linked Open Data. For anything to happen here, someone will need to take the lead in organizing (not me, we’re still trying to build some tools around the Civil War Data 150 concept!). Good notes were posted on the LODLAM blog about the conversation and how to convene future conversations. Anyone who gets involved with this, please spread the word and keep the LODLAM community apprised of your progress and ways to contribute.

We also had a workshop on using Google Refine by Carlos Arroyo from the Powerhouse Museum, with props to the FreeYourMetadata crew. Some lively sessions dug into just what and how Linked Data is and some of the pitfalls and potentials. Another session explored the importance and potential of local vocabularies, and how they can contribute to Linked Data implementations. One great example was the vocabularies surrounding Maori artifacts (Taonga) at Te Papa, and how publishing those datasets can aid other museums around the world to better describe and provide digital access to Maori collections.

As I’ve attended various LODLAM meetups since June, I’ve noticed clear momentum from one to another as these conversations progress rapidly, with those further along helping those of us just learning. After LODLAM-DC I realized the importance of including library, archive, and museum vendors in all of these gatherings. At LODLAM-NZ I could see the potential of bringing together developers in the GLAM sector and those utilizing Linked Data in commercial settings. In places like San Francisco, where commercial interests are already leading the charge on Linked Data (which is not a bad thing) and there’s an active Semantic Web developer community, the GLAM sector may be playing catchup. But the sheer number of datasets potentially available as open data coming from the GLAM sector, together with the expertise of managing massive amounts of structured data, creates a space ripe for collaboration and experimentation, and these lines will continue to blur.

Prizewinning bid in ‘Inventare il Futuro’ Competition

James Harriman-Smith - November 5, 2011 in Annotator, Bibliographic, Featured Project, Free Culture, Ideas and musings, News, OKI Projects, Open Shakespeare, Public Domain, Public Domain Works, Texts, WG Humanities, WG Open Bibliographic Data

By James Harriman-Smith and Primavera De Filippi

On the 11th July, the Open Literature (now Open Humanities) mailing list got an email about a competition being run by the University of Bologna called ‘Inventare il Futuro’ or ‘Inventing the Future’. On the 28th October, Hvaing submitted an application on behalf of the OKF, we got an email saying that our idea had won us €3 500 of funding. Here’s how.

The Idea: Open Reading

The competition was looking for “innovative ideas involving new technologies which could contribute to improving the quality of civil and social life, helping to overcome problems linked to people’s lives.” Our proposal, entered into the ‘Cultural and Artistic Heritage’ category, proposed joining the OKF’s Public Domain Calculators and Annotator together, creating a site that allowed users more interaction with public domain texts, and those texts a greater status online. To quote from our finished application:

Combined, the annotator and the public domain calculators will power a website on which users will be able to find any public domain literary text in their jurisdiction, and either download it in a variety of formats or read it in the environment of the website. If they chose the latter option, readers will have the opportunity of searching, annotating and anthologising each text, creating their own personal response to their cultural literary heritage, which they can then share with others, both through the website and as an exportable text document.

As you can see, with thirty thousand Euros for the overall winner, we decided to think very big. The full text, including a roadmap is available online. Many thanks to Jason Kitkat and Thomas Kandler who gave up their time to proofread and suggest improvements.

The Winnings: Funding Improvements to OKF Services

The first step towards Open Reading was always to improve the two services it proposed marrying: the Annotator and the Public Domain Calculators. With this in mind we intend to use our winnings to help achieve the following goals, although more ideas are always welcome:

  • Offer bounties for flow charts regarding the public domain in as yet unexamined jurisdictions.
  • Contribute, perhaps, to the bounties already available for implementing flowcharts into code.
  • Offer mini-rewards for the identification and assessment of new metadata databases.
  • Modify the annotator store back-end to allow collections.
  • Make the importation and exportation of annotations easier.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if any of this is of interest. An Open Humanities Skype meeting will be held on 20th November 2011 at 3pm GMT.

Report from JISC Open Bibliography

Theodora Middleton - July 12, 2011 in Bibliographic, Bibliographica, WG Open Bibliographic Data

The following post is the majority of the final report from our Open Bibliography Working Group‘s collaborative Open Bibliography project with JISC. Further information is available on the original report post Congratulations to all involved on the successful completion of the project!

Bibliographic data has long been understood to contain important information about the large scale structure of scientific disciplines, the influence and impact of various authors and journals. Instead of a relatively small number of privileged data owners being able to manage and control large bibliographic data stores, we want to enable an individual researcher to browse millions of records, view collaboration graphs, submit complex queries, make selections and analyses of data – all on their laptop while commuting to work. The software tools for such easy processing are not yet adequately developed, so for the last year we have been working to improve that: primarily by acquiring open datasets upon which the community can operate, and secondarily by demonstrating what can be done with these open datasets.

Our primary product is Open Bibliographic data

Open Bibliography is a combination of Open Source tools, Open specifications and Open bibliographic data. Bibliographic data is subject to a process of continual creation and replication. The elements of bibliographic data are facts, which in most jurisdictions cannot be copyrighted; there are few technical and legal obstacles to widespread replication of bibliographic records on a massive scale – but there are social limitations: whether individuals and organisations are adequately motivated and able to create and maintain open bibliographic resources.

Open bibliographic datasets

Cambridge University Library This dataset consists of MARC 21 output in a single file, comprising around 180000 records. More info… get the data
British Library The British National Bibliography contains about 3 million records – covering every book published in the UK since 1950. More info… get the data
query the data
International Union of Crystallography Crystallographic research journal publications metadata from Acta Cryst E. More info… get the data
query the data
view the data
PubMed Central The PMC Medline dataset contains about 19 million records, representing roughly 98% of PMC publications. More info… get the data
view the data

Open bibliographic principles

In working towards acquiring these open bibliographic datasets, we have clarified the key principles of open bibliographic data and set them out for others to reference and endorse. We have already collected over 100 endorsements, and we continue to promote these principles within the community. Anyone battling with issues surrounding access to bibliographic data can use these principles and the endorsements supporting them to leverage arguments in favour of open access to such metadata.

Products demonstrating the value of Open Bibliography

OpenBiblio / Bibliographica

Bibliographica is an open catalogue of books with integrated bibliography tools for example to allow you to create your own collections and work with Wikipedia. Search our instance to find metadata about anything in the British National Bibliography. More information is available about the collections tool and the Wikipedia tool.

Bibliographica runs on the open source openbiblio software, which is designed for others to use – so you can deploy your own bibliography service and create open collections. Other significant features include native RDF linked data support, queryable SOLR indexing and a variety of data output formats.

Visualising bibliographic data

Traditionally, bibliographic records have been seen as a management tool for physical and electronic collections, whether institutional or personal. In bulk, however, they are much richer than that because they can be linked, without violation of rights, to a variety of other information. The primary objective axes are:

  • Authors. As well as using individual authors as nodes in a bibliographic map, we can create co-occurrence of authors (collaborations).
  • Authors’ affiliation. Most bibliographic references will now allow direct or indirect identification of the authors’ affiliation, especially the employing institution. We can use heuristics to determine where the bulk of the work might have been done (e.g. first authorship, commonality of themes in related papers etc. Disambiguation of institutions is generally much easier than for authors, as there is a smaller number and there are also high-quality sites on the web (e.g. wikipedia for universities). In general therefore, we can geo-locate all the components of a bibliographic record.
  • Time. The time of publication is well-recorded and although this may not always indicate when the work was done, the pressure of modern science indicates that in many cases bibliography provides a fairly accurate snapshot of current research (i.e. with a delay of perhaps one year).
  • Subject. Although we cannot rely on access to abstracts (most are closed), the title is Open and in many subjects gives high precision and recall. Currently, our best examples are in infectious diseases, where terms such as malaria, plasmodium etc. are regularly and consistently used.

With these components, it is possible to create a living map of scholarship, and we show three examples carried out with our bibliographic sets.

This is a geo-temporal bibliography from the full Medline dataset. Bibliographic records have been extracted by year and geo-spatial co-ordinates located on a grid. The frequency of publications in each grid square is represented by vertical bars. (Note: Only a proportion of the entries in the full dataset have been used and readers should not draw serious conclusions from this prototype). (A demonstration screencast is available at; the full interactive resource is accessible with Firefox 4 or Google Chrome, at

This example shows a citation map of papers recursively referencing Wakefield’s paper on the adverse effects of MMR vaccination. A full analysis requires not just the act of citation but the sentiment, and initial inspection shows that the immediate papers had a negative sentiment i.e. were critical of the paper. Wakefield’s paper was eventually withdrawn but the other papers in the map still exist. It should be noted that recursive citation can often build a false sense of value for a distantly-cited object.

This is a geo-temporal bibliographic map for crystallography. The IUCr’s Open Access articles are an excellent resource as their bibliography is well-defined and the authors and affiliations well-identified. The records are plotted here on an interactive map where a slider determines the current timeslice and plots each week’s publications on a map of the world. Each publication is linked back to the original article. (The full interactive resource is available at .)

These visualisations show independent publications, but when the semantic facets on the data have been extracted it will be straightforward to aggregate by region, by date and to create linkages between locations.

Open bibliography for Science, Technology and Medicine

We have made further efforts to advocate for open bibliographic data by writing a paper on the subject of Open Bibliography for Science, Technology and Medicine. In addition to submitting for publication to a journal, we have made the paper available as a prototype of the tools we are now developing. Although somewhat subsequent to the main development of this project, these examples show where this work is taking us – with large collections available, and agreement on what to expect in terms of open bibliographic data, we can now support the individual user in new ways.

Uses in the wider community

Demonstrating further applications of our main product, we have identified other projects making use of the data we have made available. These act as demonstrations for how others could make use of open bibliographic data and the tools we (or others) have developed on top of them.

Public Domain Works is an open registry of artistic works that are in the public domain. It was originally created with a focus on sound recordings (and their underlying compositions) because a term extension for sound recordings was being considered in the EU. However, it now aims to cover all types of cultural works, and the British National Bibliography data queryable via provides an exemplar for books. The Public Domain Works team have built on our project output to create another useful resource for the community – which could not exist without both the open bibliographic data and the software to make use of it.

The Bruce at Brunel project was also able to make use of the output of the JISC Open Bibliography project; in their work to develop faceted browse for reporting, they required large quality datasets to operate on, and we were able to provide the open Medline dataset for this purpose. This is a clear advantage for having such open data, in that it informs further developments elsewhere. Additionally, in sharing these datasets we can receive feedback on the usefulness of the conversions we provide.

A further example involves the OKF Open Data in Science working group; Jenny Molloy is organising a hackathon as part of the SWAT4LS conference in December 2011, with the aim of generating open research reports using bibliographic data from PubMedCentral, focussing on malaria research. It is designed to demonstrate what can be done with open data, and this example highlights the concept of targeted bibliographic collections: essentially, reading lists of all the relevant publications on a particular topic. With open access to the bibliographic metadata, we can create and share these easily, and as required.

Additionally, with easy access to such useful datasets comes serendipitous development of useful tools. For example, one of our project team developed a simple tool over the course of a weekend for displaying relevant reading lists for events at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. This again demonstrates what can be done if only the key ingredient – the data – is openly available, discoverable and searchable.

Benefits of Open Bibliography products

Anyone with a vested interest in research and publication can benefit from these open data and open software products – academic researchers from students through to professors, as well as academic administrators and software developers, are better served by having open access to the metadata that helps describe and map the environments in which they operate. The key reasons and use cases which motivate our commitment to open bibliography are:

  1. Access to Information. Open Bibliography empowers and encourages individuals and organisations of various sizes to contribute, edit, improve, link to and enhance the value of public domain bibliographic records.
  2. Error detection and correction. Community supporting the practice of Open Bibliography will rapidly add means of checking and validating the quality of open bibliographic data.
  3. Publication of small bibliographic datasets. It is common for individuals, departments and organisations to provide definitive lists of bibliographic records.
  4. Merging bibliographic collections. With open data, we can enable referencing and linking of records between collections.
  5. A bibliographic node in the Linked Open Data cloud. Communities can add their own linked and annotated bibliographic material to an open LOD cloud.
  6. Collaboration with other bibliographic organisations. Reference manager and identifier systems such as Zotero, Mendeley, CrossRef, and academic libraries and library organisations.
  7. Mapping scholarly research and activity. Open Bibliography can provide definitive records against which publication assessments can be collated, and by which collaborations can be identified.
  8. An Open catalogue of Open scholarship. Since the bibliographic record for an article is Open, it can be annotated to show the Openness of the article itself, thus bibliographic data can be openly enhanced to show to what extent a paper is open and freely available.
  9. Cataloguing diverse materials related to bibliographic records. We see the opportunity to list databases, websites, review articles and other information which the community may find valuable, and to associate such lists with open bibliographic records.
  10. Use and development of machine learning methods for bibliographic data processing. Widespread availability of open bibliographic data in machine-readable formats should rapidly promote the use and development of machine-learning algorithms.
  11. Promotion of community information services. Widespread availability of open bibliographic web services will make it easier for those interested in promoting the development of scientific communities to develop and maintain subject-specific community information.

Sustaining Open Bibliography

Using these products

The products of this project add strength to an ecosystem of ongoing efforts towards large scale open bibliographic (and other) collections. We encourage others to use tools such as the OpenBiblio software, and to take our visualisations as examples for further application. We will maintain our exemplars for at least one year from publication of this post, whilst the software and content remain openly available to the community in perpetuity. We would be happy to hear from members of the community interested in using our products.

Further collaborations and future work

We intend to continue to build on the output of this project; after the success of liberating large bibliographic collections and clarifying open bibliographic principles, the focus is now on managing personal / small collections. Collaborative efforts with the Bibliographic Knowledge network project have begun, and continuing development will make the aforementioned releases of large scale open bibliographic datasets directly relevant and beneficial to people in the academic community, by providing a way for individuals – or departments or research groups – to easily manage, present, and search their own bibliographic collections.

Via collaboration with the Scholarly HTML community we intend to follow conventions for embedding bibliographic metadata within HTML documents whilst also enabling collection of such embedded records into BibJSON, thus allowing embedded metadata whilst also providing additional functionality similar to that demonstrated already, such as search and visualisation. We are also working towards ensuring compatibility between ScHTML and, affording greater relevance and usability of ScHTML data.

Success in these ongoing efforts will enable us to support large scale open bibliographic data, providing a strong basis for open scholarship in the future. We hope to attract further support and collaboration from groups that realise the importance of Open Source code, Open Data and Open Knowledge to the future of scholarship.

Project partners


Notes from Open Metadata Workshop, The Hague, 15th June 2011

Jonathan Gray - June 24, 2011 in Bibliographic, Events, Open Data, Open/Closed, Policy, WG Open Bibliographic Data, Working Groups, Workshop

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Last week I went to an excellent workshop on open metadata organised by Europeana. The workshop drew together directors from libraries, archives and cultural heritage organisations across Europe – such as the British Library, the Deutsche National Bibliothek, the UK National Archives, the National Library of Ireland, the National Library of Lithuania, the Rijksmuseum, Statsbibliothek Berlin and many others.

From the blurb about the workshop (my highlights):

During the past couple of years the call to make (meta) data openly available for re-use, especially in the public sphere, has gained a lot of momentum. We see this reflected in many initiatives such as the Open Data Challenge, Share-PSI and recently a number of institutions that have started making their records available as Linked Open Data (see for example the British Library).

Europeana is also in the process of redesigning the data exchange agreements with our partners to reflect this new paradigm. To a large extend the plans we have formulated in our Strategic Plan are dependent on agreeing on a much more open license on the metadata held in our repository. During a lengthy consultation process we have gained a lot of insights and arguments from our network on the reasons pro and con. What we have not done before is to put the cultural institution central in this equation, by looking at the impact on the business model of a cultural institution when it makes its metadata available under a non restrictive licence (CC0 or CC-BY-SA). What are the main benefits that can be expected? What new channels will become available? Will this diminish the potential earning capacity of the institution? These are the types of questions we would like investigate with you.

Through in-depth discussions and group exercises, the workshop drew out and explored lists of risks (e.g. loss of income, brand and attribution) and benefits (e.g. new collaborations, partnerships, expertise) associated with openly licensing metadata. Explicitly drawing out and exploring risks was particularly interesting, and the workshop gave participants the opportunity to discuss and address their concerns thoroughly. Someone helped to produced drawings to capture the topics discussed in real time:

One theme of the workshop was how the cultural heritage community can build a better base of evidence to support switching to open licensing models for metadata about works. As the director of a national library put it:

Everyone sees the opportunities in relation to open data, we just need better arguments to address potential risks.

Participants said that there was a general willingness to take risks associated with switching to an open data model – despite things like potential loss of direct income – because the potential benefits outweigh these risks. But there was a need for stronger arguments and evidence to convince others in the sector. There was a strong sense that the risks of opening up are relatively short term, whereas the benefits are medium to long term.

Bill Thompson from the BBC pointed out that metadata holders were often tempted to overstate the value that could be derived from selling their data. In response to this he said:

Potential income is often not real income. Board members imagine that digital rights can mean big money, but often they are wrong.

Participants discussed how opening up metadata – allowing this information about collections to be reused by others – was part of the public mission of cultural heritage organisations. This creates opportunities for enriching the data, increasing relevance, and attracting new users to online and physical collections. As one participant said:

The more you open up, the more customers you attract, the more relevant you become.

Everyone agreed that it was worth building up a stronger base of evidence – of open data success stories – that would encourage and inspire more cultural heritage organisations to consider opening up their metadata. Representatives from Europeana said they would be doing something in this area soon.

You can find some photos from the workshop here. We’ll post links to further documentation and coverage here as soon as they become available!

If you’re interested in open metadata, you may wish to join our open-bibliography and open-heritage mailing lists. launches Open Metadata Principles

Guest - June 2, 2011 in Bibliographic, External, Open Data, WG Open Bibliographic Data, Working Groups

The following guest post is from Owen Stephens, who is a member of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Working Group on Open Bibliographic Data.

Discovery is a new JISC funded initiative to help realise a vision set out in 2010 by the JISC and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) ‘Resource Discovery Taskforce’ (RDTF).

The RDTF Vision is about making resources more discoverable, accessible, and usable by both people and machines. The Discovery initiative seeks to realise the vision by engaging libraries, museums and archives and building a critical mass of freely available, quality, data which can be used to build compelling applications and inspire others to both contribute and use data to build what Discovery describes as a ‘metadata ecology’ for UK education and research.

Key to realising the vision is ‘open’ metadata, and at the Discovery launch event at the Wellcome Trust in London on the 26th May the Discovery ‘Open Metadata Principles’ were announced. The principles recommend that institutions should presume their metadata is by default made freely available for use and reuse, and advocate clear licensing for metadata, specifically the use of the standard Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication & Licence (ODC-PDDL), the broadly similar Creative Commons CC0 licence or the UK Open Government Licence (OGL).

The Open Metadata Principles are supported by both the existing JISC guide to Open Bibliographic Data and a new practical guide to Licensing Open Data. Initial signatories to the principles include representatives from the JISC, the British Library, the UK National Archives, RLUK, SCONUL, the National Library of Wales, the Collections Trust and the British Universities Film and Video Council. A full list of signatories to the principles is available at

Discovery will continue to engage with those wishing to contribute and use data to create resource discovery services based on a rich set of open metadata published using a clear set of principles and practices. So whether you are building a business case to release data, building applications or just want to know more about Discovery, visit and track #ukdiscovery for more information and announcements.

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