Linked Research on the Decentralised Web

Abstract:  This thesis is about research communication in the context of the Web. I analyse literature which reveals how researchers are making use of Web technologies for knowledge dissemination, as well as how individuals are disempowered by the centralisation of certain systems, such as academic publishing platforms and social media. I share my findings on the feasibility of a decentralised and interoperable information space where researchers can control their identifiers whilst fulfilling the core functions of scientific communication: registration, awareness, certification, and archiving.

The contemporary research communication paradigm operates under a diverse set of sociotechnical constraints, which influence how units of research information and personal data are created and exchanged. Economic forces and non-interoperable system designs mean that researcher identifiers and research contributions are largely shaped and controlled by third-party entities; participation requires the use of proprietary systems.

From a technical standpoint, this thesis takes a deep look at semantic structure of research artifacts, and how they can be stored, linked and shared in a way that is controlled by individual researchers, or delegated to trusted parties. Further, I find that the ecosystem was lacking a technical Web standard able to fulfill the awareness function of research communication. Thus, I contribute a new communication protocol, Linked Data Notifications (published as a W3C Recommendation) which enables decentralised notifications on the Web, and provide implementations pertinent to the academic publishing use case. So far we have seen decentralised notifications applied in research dissemination or collaboration scenarios, as well as for archival activities and scientific experiments.

Another core contribution of this work is a Web standards-based implementation of a clientside tool, dokieli, for decentralised article publishing, annotations and social interactions. dokieli can be used to fulfill the scholarly functions of registration, awareness, certification, and archiving, all in a decentralised manner, returning control of research contributions and discourse to individual researchers.

The overarching conclusion of the thesis is that Web technologies can be used to create a fully functioning ecosystem for research communication. Using the framework of Web architecture, and loosely coupling the four functions, an accessible and inclusive ecosystem can be realised whereby users are able to use and switch between interoperable applications without interfering with existing data.

Technical solutions alone do not suffice of course, so this thesis also takes into account the need for a change in the traditional mode of thinking amongst scholars, and presents the Linked Research initiative as an ongoing effort toward researcher autonomy in a social system, and universal access to human- and machine-readable information?. Outcomes of this outreach work so far include an increase in the number of individuals self-hosting their research artifacts, workshops publishing accessible proceedings on the Web, in-the-wild experiments with open and public peer-review, and semantic graphs of contributions to conference proceedings and journals (the Linked Open Research Cloud).

Some of the future challenges include: addressing the social implications of decentralised Web publishing, as well as the design of ethically grounded interoperable mechanisms; cultivating privacy aware information spaces; personal or community-controlled on-demand archiving services; and further design of decentralised applications that are aware of the core functions of scientific communication.

Exploring Canadiana: A Use Case for Wikidata – Hanging Together

“My colleagues Jean Godby, Karen Smith-Yoshimura, and Bruce Washburn, along with a host of partners, have just released Creating Library Linked Data with Wikibase: Lessons Learned from Project Passage, a fascinating account of their experiences working with a customized instance of Wikibase to create resource descriptions in the form of linked data. In the spirit of their report, I’d like to offer a modest yet illustrative use case showing how access to the relationships and properties of the linked data in another Wikibase environment – Wikidata – smoothed the way for OCLC Research’s recent study of the Canadian presence in the published record.

Maple Leaves: Discovering Canada Through the Published Record is the latest in a series of OCLC Research studies that explore national contributions to the world’s accumulated body of published materials. A national contribution is defined as materials published in, about, and/or by the people of that country. The last category presents a special challenge: how to assemble a list of entities – people and organizations – associated with a particular country from which authors, musicians, film makers, and other creators of published works can be identified?…”

Wikidata:From “an” Identifier to “the” Identifier

Abstract:  Library catalogues may be connected to the linked data cloud through various types of thesauri. For name authority thesauri in particular I would like to suggest a fundamental break with the current distributed linked data paradigm: to make a transition from a multitude of different identifiers to using a single, universal identifier for all relevant named entities, in the form of the Wikidata identifier. Wikidata (https://wikidata.org) seems to be evolving into a major authority hub that is lowering barriers to access the web of data for everyone. Using the Wikidata identifier of notable entities as a common identifier for connecting resources has significant benefits compared to traversing the ever-growing linked data cloud. When the use of Wikidata reaches a critical mass, for some institutions, Wikidata could even serve as an authority control mechanism.

Robustifying Scholia: paving the way for knowledge discovery and research assessment through Wikidata

Abstract:  Knowledge workers like researchers, students, journalists, research evaluators or funders need tools to explore what is known, how it was discovered, who made which contributions, and where the scholarly record has gaps. Existing tools and services of this kind are not available as Linked Open Data, but Wikidata is. It has the technology, active contributor base, and content to build a large-scale knowledge graph for scholarship, also known as WikiCite. Scholia visualizes this graph in an exploratory interface with profiles and links to the literature. However, it is just a working prototype. This project aims to “robustify Scholia” with back-end development and testing based on pilot corpora. The main objective at this stage is to attain stability in challenging cases such as server throttling and handling of large or incomplete datasets. Further goals include integrating Scholia with data curation and manuscript writing workflows, serving more languages, generating usage stats, and documentation.

ZooArchNet: Connecting zooarchaeological specimens to the biodiversity and archaeology data networks

Abstract:  Interdisciplinary collaborations and data sharing are essential to addressing the long history of human-environmental interactions underlying the modern biodiversity crisis. Such collaborations are increasingly facilitated by, and dependent upon, sharing open access data from a variety of disciplinary communities and data sources, including those within biology, paleontology, and archaeology. Significant advances in biodiversity open data sharing have focused on neontological and paleontological specimen records, making available over a billion records through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. But to date, less effort has been placed on the integration of important archaeological sources of biodiversity, such as zooarchaeological specimens. Zooarchaeological specimens are rich with both biological and cultural heritage data documenting nearly all phases of human interaction with animals and the surrounding environment through time, filling a critical gap between paleontological and neontological sources of data within biodiversity networks. Here we describe technical advances for mobilizing zooarchaeological specimen-specific biological and cultural data. In particular, we demonstrate adaptations in the workflow used by biodiversity publisher VertNet to mobilize Darwin Core formatted zooarchaeological data to the GBIF network. We also show how a linked open data approach can be used to connect existing biodiversity publishing mechanisms with archaeoinformatics publishing mechanisms through collaboration with the Open Context platform. Examples of ZooArchNet published datasets are used to show the efficacy of creating this critically needed bridge between biological and archaeological sources of open access data. These technical advances and efforts to support data publication are placed in the larger context of ZooarchNet, a new project meant to build community around new approaches to interconnect zoorchaeological data and knowledge across disciplines.

ARL, Wikimedia, and Linked Open Data: Draft White Paper Open for Comments through November 30 | Association of Research Libraries® | ARL®

“In June 2018, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) charged a task force to look at Wikidata. The task force emerged from several years of discussion between ARL and the Wikimedia Foundation on where the two communities can effectively collaborate. The focus on Wikidata and Wikibase came from two points of alignment in particular: interest in linked open data for both library discovery systems and Wikipedia, and advancing a diversity and inclusion agenda in the cultures of both libraries and Wikimedia….”