If you are finding your way to the blog via the Talking with Talis podcast, hello! I wanted to expand on why I am interested in the Semantic Web as I only briefly touched on this in the podcast.

eResearch and Data

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference where the theme was eResearch. Librarians described how they have responded to the challenges of managing datasets, ever-increasing amounts of raw information and data, as well as grey literature, preprints, and other publications. Several scientists also gave perspectives on how they thought libraries could assist with their research. The scientists discussed the issues with being able to collect so much data, increased complexity in manipulating it, and how so much of their work has shifted online and in some fields, to Open Access. This led me to think about how librarians can work with researchers to assist them better, beyond what we do now. How can we assist with the way data is structured and shared, and perhaps even become part of research teams, assisting with the gigabytes upon gigabytes of data that teams create, use and share.

At the same time, there was a growing focus on research metrics, quality and impact in several countries. We know how limited ISI is, so what else can we build to do this better? How can we trace data through a published presentation back to where it was created? How can we connect ideas, people and projects online to find collaborators and like-minds in a field?

The conference didn’t mention the Semantic Web as a way to assist with these issues, but to me, as I read more about the concepts behind it, it seems a logical fit for Open Data, Open Access and issues of managing gigabytes of data.

Looking to the future

Other ideas, like Next Generation Catalogues are also really interesting. What is important is a focus on the structure and quality of the data we have in the catalog. There is no point to bells and whistles presentation like tag clouds and facets without having good data to work with. There’s a growing number of librarians who are focusing on this and taking a strong interest in RDA and other projects.

Beyond these issues, I’m interested in what’s next. I think libraries are a natural fit for the Semantic Web because of its emphasis on RDF, and data and metadata. In some ways it’s a return to what we do best - organising information, provenance, databases.

I do think that it should not be just from technical staff and cataloguers and research librarians - there really does need to be involvement from all types of librarians to ensure that we are really participating in projects that meet user needs, not just in libraries but on the Internet as a whole.

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog