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.

Discovery – GO FAIR

“The main purpose of the Discovery IN is to provide interfaces and other user-facing services for data discovery across disciplines. We explore new and innovative ways of enabling discovery, including visualizations, recommender systems, semantics, content mining, annotation, and responsible metrics. …”

Leveraging Concepts in Open Access Publications

Abstract : This paper addresses the integration of a Named Entity Recognition and Disambiguation (NERD) service within a group of open access (OA) publishing digital platforms and considers its potential impact on both research and scholarly publishing. The software powering this service, called entity-fishing, was initially developed by Inria in the context of the EU FP7 project CENDARI and provides automatic entity recognition and disambiguation using the Wikipedia and Wikidata data sets. The application is distributed with an open-source licence, and it has been deployed as a web service in DARIAH’s infrastructure hosted by the French HumaNum. In the paper, we focus on the specific issues related to its integration on five OA platforms specialized in the publication of scholarly monographs in the social sciences and humanities (SSH), as part of the work carried out within the EU H2020 project HIRMEOS (High Integration of Research Monographs in the European Open Science infrastructure). In the first section, we give a brief overview of the current status and evolution of OA publications, considering specifically the challenges that OA monographs are encountering. In the second part, we show how the HIRMEOS project aims to face these challenges by optimizing five OA digital platforms for the publication of monographs from the SSH and ensuring their interoperability. In sections three and four we give a comprehensive description of the entity-fishing service, focusing on its concrete applications in real use cases together with some further possible ideas on how to exploit the annotations generated. We show that entity-fishing annotations can improve both research and publishing process. In the last chapter, we briefly present further possible application scenarios that could be made available through infrastructural projects.

Open Knowledge Institutions: Reinventing Universities

“Can 13 authors, from the USA, Germany, Australia, China and South Africa, many previously unknown to one another, get together and, from scratch, write a 150-page book –– on a topic none of them has tackled before –– in 5 days? 

If the group in question is committed to the same goals as MIT’s PubPub platform, to “socialize the process of knowledge creation”; [1] and if the process they use is a Book Sprint, a professionally facilitated “collaborative process that captures the knowledge of a group of experts in a single book,“ [2] then the answer is yes.

What drew our diverse group together is “open knowledge.” By this we mean not just the technical specifics of open access publishing or open source computing, and not just a general commitment to an open society, open government or open science, but a need to understand how these technical and social possibilities can be brought together in open knowledge institutions. 

Specifically, how can the most long-lasting, successful and expanding version of a knowledge institution –– the university –– face the mounting challenges of global, digital and contested knowledge systems, in order to transform universities into Open Knowledge Institutions?

We present the results of our work here to the wider community for annotation, commentary, constructive criticism and engagement, with a view to extending the collaborative spirit further. We want the book to gain further analytical richness and precision from crowd-sourced expertise. You are invited to join us as we work through some of the issues that may enable or stand in the way of socialising knowledge itself….”

Automating semantic publishing – IOS Press

Abstract: “Semantic Publishing involves the use of Web and Semantic Web technologies and standards for the semantic enhancement of a scholarly work so as to improve its discoverability, interactivity, openness and (re-)usability for both humans and machines. Recently, people have suggested that the semantic enhancements of a scholarly work should be undertaken by the authors of that scholarly work, and should be considered as integral parts of the contribution subjected to peer review. However, this requires that the authors should spend additional time and effort adding such semantic annotations, time that they usually do not have available. Thus, the most pragmatic way to facilitate this additional task is to use automated services that create the semantic annotation of authors’ scholarly articles by parsing the content that they have already written, thus reducing the additional time required of the authors to that for checking and validating these semantic annotations. In this article, I propose a generic approach called compositional and iterative semantic enhancement (CISE) that enables the automatic enhancement of scholarly papers with additional semantic annotations in a way that is independent of the markup used for storing scholarly articles and the natural language used for writing their content.”

Automating semantic publishing – IOS Press

Abstract: “Semantic Publishing involves the use of Web and Semantic Web technologies and standards for the semantic enhancement of a scholarly work so as to improve its discoverability, interactivity, openness and (re-)usability for both humans and machines. Recently, people have suggested that the semantic enhancements of a scholarly work should be undertaken by the authors of that scholarly work, and should be considered as integral parts of the contribution subjected to peer review. However, this requires that the authors should spend additional time and effort adding such semantic annotations, time that they usually do not have available. Thus, the most pragmatic way to facilitate this additional task is to use automated services that create the semantic annotation of authors’ scholarly articles by parsing the content that they have already written, thus reducing the additional time required of the authors to that for checking and validating these semantic annotations. In this article, I propose a generic approach called compositional and iterative semantic enhancement (CISE) that enables the automatic enhancement of scholarly papers with additional semantic annotations in a way that is independent of the markup used for storing scholarly articles and the natural language used for writing their content.”

Research Articles in Simplified HTML: a Web-first format for HTML-based scholarly articles

Abstract:  Purpose: this paper introduces the Research Articles in Simplified HTML (or RASH), which is a Web-first format for writing HTML-based scholarly papers; it is accompanied by the RASH Framework, i.e. a set tools for interacting with RASH-based articles. The paper also presents an evaluation that involved authors and reviewers of RASH articles, submitted to the SAVE-SD 2015 and SAVE-SD 2016 workshops.

Design: RASH has been developed in order to: be easy to learn and use; share scholarly documents (and embedded semantic annotations) through the Web; support its adoption within the existing publishing workflow

Findings: the evaluation study confirmed that RASH can already be adopted in workshops, conferences and journals and can be quickly learnt by researchers who are familiar with HTML.

Research limitations: the evaluation study also highlighted some issues in the adoption of RASH, and in general of HTML formats, especially by less technical savvy users. Moreover, additional tools are needed, e.g. for enabling additional conversion from/to existing formats such as OpenXML.

Practical implications: RASH (and its Framework) is another step towards enabling the definition of formal representations of the meaning of the content of an article, facilitate its automatic discovery, enable its linking to semantically related articles, provide access to data within the article in actionable form, and allow integration of data between papers.

Social implications: RASH addresses the intrinsic needs related to the various users of a scholarly article: researchers (focussing on its content), readers (experiencing new ways for browsing it), citizen scientists (reusing available data formally defined within it through semantic annotations), publishers (using the advantages of new technologies as envisioned by the Semantic Publishing movement).

Value: RASH focuses strictly on writing the content of the paper (i.e., organisation of text + semantic annotations) and leaves all the issues about it validation, visualisation, conversion, and semantic data extraction to the various tools developed within its Framework.