Paula Granados Garcia (British Museum); Sarah Middle (Open University)
Linked Pasts 6
The sixth annual Linked Pasts symposium (LP6) was held in December 2020 as an online event hosted by the University of London and the British Library. The event brings together scholars, heritage professionals and other practitioners with an interest in Linked Open Data (LOD) as applied to the study of the ancient and historical worlds.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the symposium had to be a fully remote and online event which despite preventing us from meeting in person, did allow a much larger number of attendees in comparison to previous years (about 500), while facilitating multiple events taking place over two weeks rather than an intense three days of in-person sessions.
The event was designed so that prospective participants could propose different activities (including roundtables, seminars, workshops, discussion groups…) to be hosted throughout the two weeks of the conference, thereby promoting discussion among participants who decided to join one or more of the proposed activities.
Promotion and Leverage Activity
In this context, we decided to propose an activity focused on the collection and promotion of real-world LOD resources. Both of us had been involved with LOD resources in our respective PhD researches and had noticed how there does not seem to be an agreed mechanism for promoting and leveraging LOD projects for Ancient World research, with current strategies being rather fragmentary. This issue becomes especially concerning in the semantic web world, where the success of the approach relies on the collaboration and discoverability of the existing resources.
We had noticed that well-known initiatives for the promotion of newly created LOD datasets include the LOD cloud and the email@example.com mailing list, although neither facilitate the process of discovering relevant datasets for Ancient World research. The topic is yet to receive sufficient attention from the linked data community, especially regarding published research or guidance on how better to promote/leverage LOD resources and initiatives.
As a result, we worked with Gabriel Bodard and Elton Barker to create a catalogue of Linked Ancient World datasets. As well as providing the dataset URIs, our spreadsheet contains information such as formats and licences, and links to relevant entries on the Digital Classicist wiki. Our current criteria for inclusion are:
- Data can be queried or downloaded in a format generally understood as LOD (e.g. RDF, JSON, Atom)
- Datasets are related to the Ancient World in some way
We realise this scope is quite strict, but it ensures that we can currently keep the entries to a manageable number, while providing scope to broaden our criteria in future. If you know of a dataset that you think should be included but does not yet appear in the catalogue, please provide its details via our entry form.
The aims of the sessions at LP were to:
- discuss the effectiveness of current strategies to raise awareness about LOD projects online;
- develop a tentative protocol with the most interesting solutions proposed;
- collate and leverage Ancient World datasets by adding to our catalogue
Main Discussions and Interviews
After presenting our ideas to LP6 attendees, we opened a Slack channel for asynchronous communication (which is still open for comments) and held two synchronous meetings for further discussion. Participants generally agreed that the catalogue would be useful to both consumers and producers of LOD, although there were suggestions to convert the data to JSON format and to provide a more interactive interface – both of which we will consider once the catalogue moves past the ‘proof of concept’ stage.
We also spoke about current criteria for inclusion and potential expansion, with suggestions including the introduction of data categories to facilitate discoverability. Another topic for discussion was our definition of ‘Ancient World’, which we ultimately decided would be best to align with criteria for inclusion in the Digital Classicist wiki.
Feedback and Outcomes
Looking to the future, we discussed the importance of community engagement for sustainability, particularly if we expand our remit by using a broader definition of ‘Linked Data’, as well as maintaining some form of moderation for contributions. We also recognised the importance of preserving the catalogue data in a trusted repository, while ensuring that it additionally continues to be maintained as a living resource.
In addition to our specific initiative, we found it very useful to draw parallels with other activities at LP6. In particular, it was extremely valuable to participate in conversations around user needs for Wikidata alignment (with Anne Chen, Kyle Conrau-Lewis, Elton Barker and Rob Sanderson) and we are interested to hear about Adam Rabinowitz’s plans for a date/time LOD resource catalogue. Taking part in all these other sessions at LP6 enriched our own discussions and enhanced our understanding of community interests and needs.
We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our discussions and look forward to continuing them in future. We hope that this event doesn’t mark an end but rather the start of new conversations on how to better promote LOD projects as well as to raise interest in the catalogue and the leverage and discoverability of LOD real-world resources.