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data.ac.uk proposal

20 Jul

Since our previous post on a domain name for our project, it has been suggested that a possible scalable solution is a central data repository for the UK academic community (data.ac.uk), in a similar style to data.gov.uk, which is a repository of open public government data.

To recap, the need is that a commercial domain carries a per-year fee (typically 10-20 GBP), which is intractable to maintain for many years for typical academic short-term projects, and thus a purchased domain would not exist in future. While this may not be crucial for a project homepage, it is crucial for Linked Data, where the URLs of the data must exist in perpetuity, because the data themselves use these URIs. Since our project’s output is Linked Data, which is intended to be used by anyone that outputs data that may include Classical Music (we have partners including BBC /music, who are interested in using our URLs), the domain must exist in perpetuity.

We also found that it would be best to not use a subdomain of our school (such as musicnet.soton.ac.uk), since this would be seen as partisan to the school/university and is likely to get less uptake that something at a higher level (such as musicnet.ac.uk).

Current JANET/UKERNA policy does not enable us to have a top level academic domain (musicnet.ac.uk) because they are limited to projects funded centrally, and for at least 2 years. This makes sense to lower the overhead of having to register domains for thousands of small projects.

Thus, a floated suggestion has been for JISC to fund/host a “data.ac.uk” domain and/or repository to provide a linked data domain and/or web hosting solution for academic data publishers (such as MusicNet).

There are two key points that I would like to make:

1) It will provide a lower technical and financial barrier to entry to people that have some RDF to publish.

If a project has some RDF to publish right now, they have to first figure out how to publish it correctly as linked data — few academic projects have managed this, and they probably don’t realise that they could be doing better. By providing a central service that can manage and host data properly, there is also the potential to add extract features. This is analogous to a cloud hosted blog service, such as tumblr.com or blogspot.com, where security patches, and features are added for free by the hosters, without the publishers doing anything. For RDF I can forsee better human readable access, backlink features to external RDF, etc. being added over time, even to legacy RDF that is being hosted for projects that have long since finished. Similarly, the hosting and maintenance of the servers is then the responsibility of the data.ac.uk team, rather than some small-term project. The investment in creating this data is then protected, since the central repository holds it.

2) It must not limit what technically able projects can do.

In our case, we do not require a hosting solution, because we already know how to host data, and we already negotiated ad-inifinitum in perpetuity hosting of our data by the central School of Electronics and Computer Science administration team (this was a key part of our project bid).

Furthermore, we wish to host an alignment service that enables musicologists to make edits to data after it has been published, so that it is kept up-to-date, and any mistakes can be fixed over time. Other projects may have different needs.

Thus it is important for projects like ours that we can apply for just a subdomain (without hosting) of data.ac.uk (musicnet.data.ac.uk) so that we can run our own hosting and bespoke services.

 
18 Comments

Posted by Daniel Alexander Smith in Discussion

 

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  1. Matthew Rowe

    July 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Daniel

    Really interesting article about publishing linked data from academic institutes. I have published a linked data service describing people in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield [1]. I would be happy to talk more about your proposal and push this further. Drop me a line.

    Matthew Rowe

    [1] – http://data.dcs.shef.ac.uk/

     
  2. David F. Flanders

    August 14, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    what about data.soton.ac.uk <– as stated in your second point the significance of having technical control but also persistent URLs at the institution might also fit? data.ac.uk could then just point to the various data sets accrross .ac.uk domains (would be great if we all adopted a URL syntax norm like data.xyzUniversity.ac.uk ? Been looking at CKAN for this as it could easily be an instance that any university could easily launch to host their datasets (also enables cross searching accross those domains in a common format (both ReST and SPARQL)? Chat more next week :)

     
    • Daniel Alexander Smith

      August 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      David, that sounds interesting. I know there is already a bigger-picture proposal for data.soton.ac.uk, about opening up the general website’s data ongoing, so if we can fit into that, it might be suitable.

      However, one of our requirements was a non-partisan domain name, so that musicologists outside of southampton won’t feel that this is a southampton resource.

       
    • Barbie

      August 27, 2012 at 2:08 am

      This is just the perfect anwser for all of us

       
  3. MusicNet URI scheme and Linked Data hosting « MusicNet Blog

    January 20, 2011 at 9:48 am

    [...] which it is not. For a more in depth discussion of a proposed solutions see our previous posts (data.ac.uk proposal & data.ac.uk [...]

     
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