A great announcement from the Open University. http://www3.open.ac.uk/media/fullstory.aspx?id=20073
In short, The OU (with the active and welcome involvement of JISC) is exposing its data (which could be anything, but think staff details, courses, research interests, I think) as Linked Open Data. I’ll post some snippets and then say why I think this is critical.
The JISC-funded OU’s LUCERO (Linking University Content for Education
and Research Online) project has enabled information stored across many
of the university’s websites to be brought together in a common, openly
accessible location: data.open.ac.uk.
“…members of the public, students,
researchers and organisations will be able to easily search, extract
and, more importantly, reuse The Open University’s information and data.”
“The data is there, and already visible,
but in many different places, systems and databases. By exposing it as
linked data on data.open.ac.uk, we make it accessible and exploitable,
and open to uses that we don’t have to dictate.”
LUCERO is The Open University making the initial step on
behalf of UK universities to contribute to what was the original
intention behind a World Wide Web.”
The Open University joins organisations such as the UK, US
and Australian governments, and international media outlets, such as the
BBC and the New York Times.
David Flanders, Programme Manager, Information Environment at JISC,
said: “This new centralised-data-watering-pump is the first launched of
its kind in UK universities and should be celebrated accordingly. (…)
hopefully this is the first of many data.foo.ac.uk to come.”
For more information visit:
I celebrate this. It is indeed mouthwatering. If every institution exposed simple data and metadata then the rest can be done by machines. The main thing is to get it out there. Let’s assume that staff details and research interests are available. Here for example is part of the OU’s chemistry research…
Inorganic, materials and coordination chemistry
Research focuses on the synthesis and characterisation (by diffraction, spectroscopic, thermal and computer modelling methods) of solid inorganic materials including magnetic oxides, zeolites, titania pigments, bimetallic catalysts, solid acid catalysts and micro- and meso-porous materials. Research in coordination chemistry includes work on the macrobicyclic hexaimino ligands (azocryptands), the study of magnetic exchange interactions and the characterisation of radical anions in charge transfer processes.
Bingle will not index chemistry (it doesn’t know that an azacryptand is similar to a crown ether). But we can extract this material and turn it into semantic chemistry. That then allows us to ask questions like:
“what UK universities contain PhD theses on zeolites?” (A zeolite is a natural or synthetic aluminosilicate that is very widely used in catalysis and other applications). That will be almost trivial to answer under this system. It will be better than Bingle.
But of course it won’t be much use for those Universities which:
- Do not publish their theses
- Only publish them in PDF (yes we can hack it, but)
- Hide all their chemistry theses behind a wall of secrecy.
That means that when students from the enlightened institutions publish the machines will make it much easier for academic or commercial recruiters to discover them and offer them positions. Word of mouth will be replaced by word of web. Managed in large part by machines.