It’s time to talk a bit about Bibliographica, a new project of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Bibliographica is designed to make it easier for scholars and researchers to share and collect information about work in their field. It provides an open source software platform to create and share semantically rich information about publications, authors and their works.

As readers of the Open Knowledge Foundation blog will know we have a long-standing interest in open bibliographic data – from our efforts starting in 2005 to build a database of public domain works, our coordination of the response to the Library of Congress’ Future of Bibliographic Control (2007) and the recent creation of a new working group on open bibliographic data in March this year.

Bibliographica itself, is a long-held dream of Jonathan Gray, OKF’s Community Coordinator – a commons of open data surrounding scholarly communications. Thanks to collaboration and support from IDEA Lab at the University of Edinburgh, the dream is a bit closer to reality.

The primary “technical” features of Bibliographica are:

  • Rich (FRBR-based) domain model
  • Semantic web and linked open data to the core providing for very flexible metadata and easy integration of external material
  • Wiki-like revisioning of all changes enabling easier and freer collaboration
  • Software and a Service
  • Designed to be installed and run by others
  • Distributed — can run different nodes with pull (and push) of data between them

But what needs of users does Bibliographica aim to satisfy?

Easy collaboration by scholars and librariains in creating bibliographies and enhancing catalogues

Often the people who know most about what is published in a given field are the researchers who are active in that field. Bibliographica will enable scholars to directly collaborate on annotated bibliographic indexes for their subject area. A revisioned (wiki-like) approach to adding metadata allows for more open collaboration, and a semantic web base means support for rich metadata with a good standard structure.

We think that letting researchers directly add or edit details about publications in their field — which they can then export, publish, or do whatever they like with — is a good way to keep this information accurate and up to date.

Easy creation of publication lists for different uses

Bibliographica will provide either directly, or via integration with existing tools, an easy way to create and annotate lists of publications. Create a reading list for an undergraduate course, a bibliography for a book or article that you are writing, or a detailed list of works about a given person.

Open software and service so anyone can run their own copy

Bibliographica will be a fully open service. All the code will be open source and by default all the data will be openly licensed. Just as projects like WordPress allow anyone to set up their own copy (rather than depending on a centralised and possibly proprietary third-party service), so institutions and groups of researchers will be able to set up and run their own instance of Bibliographica, which they can customise and extend.

More sophisticated data models and searches

We plan to harness the specialised knowledge of researchers in particular domains to richly annotate information in the database so that one can provide (good) answers to questions like: “What was published on Nietschze in English between 1950 and 1975?”

Linked Data vocabularies allow wide range of statements to be made about a work or author. We’re starting with the Dublin Core and SKOS vocabularies, and defining some of our own for expressing the types of things that can be said about works or authors.

Once a substantial amount of such information has been collected it will become possible to use inferencing techniques to provide answers to more subtle and interesting questions than would be answerable by the usual bibliographic metadata alone.

Get involved

We’ll be writing more in the coming weeks about the roadmap for the Bibliographica service and some of the specifics around the use of Linked Data to describe scholarly communications.

It would be great to hear from those of you who’d like to get involved – helping to refine the data models, suggest vocabularies we should be re-using, contributing research resources to the version at or testing out your own instance of the Bibliographica software.

Please get in touch, or join us on the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open-bibliography mailing list.


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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.

7 thoughts on “Bibliographica, an Introduction”

  1. @Jakob: I assume you mean the Open Bibliography working group?

    If so, I think there are two relationships (note this is just my opinoin!): first, I hope other members of the Open Bibliography working group will be interested in participating in the project and/or using if for their own purpose. Second, in the medium-term (and if other working group members were happy to do this), to take on something like supervisory ownership of the project — perhaps this could be done by creating and explicit advisory panel for the project made up of members of the working group.

    @Jakob: if you had ideas or suggestions of your own on this front please do say — and perhaps on the open-bibliography mailing list as well as here :)

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