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Final report: JISC Open Bibliography 2

- August 23, 2012 in BibServer, JISC OpenBib, jiscopenbib2, wp10, wp9

Following on from the success of the first JISC Open Bibliography project we have now completed a further year of development and advocacy as part of the JISC Discovery programme. Our stated aims at the beginning of the second year of development were to show our community (namely all those interested in furthering the cause of Open via bibliographic data, including: coders; academics; those with interest in supporting Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums; etc) what we are missing if we do not commit to Open Bibliography, and to show that Open Bibliography is a fundamental requirement of a community committed to discovery and dissemination of ideas. We intended to do this by demonstrating the value of carefully managed metadata collections of particular interest to individuals and small groups, thus realising the potential of the open access to large collections of metadata we now enjoy. We have been successful overall in achieving our aims, and we present here a summary of our output to date (it may be useful to refer to this guide to terms).

Outputs

BibServer and FacetView

The BibServer open source software package enables individuals and small groups to present their bibliographic collections easily online. BibServer utilises elasticsearch in the background to index supplied records, and these are presented via the frontend using the FacetView javascript library. This use of javascript at the front end allows easy embedding of result displays on any web page.

BibSoup and more demonstrations

Our own version of BibServer is up and running at http://bibsoup.net, where we have seen over 100 users sharing more than 14000 records across over 60 collections. Some particularly interesting example collections include: Additionally, we have created some niche instances of BibServer for solving specific problems – for example, check out http://malaria.bibsoup.net; here we have used BibServer to analyse and display collections specific to malaria researchers, as a demonstration of the extent of open access materials in the field. Further analysis allowed us to show where best to look for relevant materials that could be expected to be openly available, and to begin work on the concept of an Open Access Index for research. Another example is the German National Bibliography, as provided by the German National Library, which is in progress (as explained by Adrian Pohl and Etienne Posthumus here). We have and are building similar collections for all other national bibliographies that we receive.

BibJSON

At http://bibjson.org we have produced a simple convention for presenting bibliographic records in JSON. This has seen good uptake so far, with additional use in the JISC TEXTUS project and in Total Impact, amongst others.

Pubcrawler

Pubcrawler collects bibliographic metadata, via parsers created for particular sites, and we have used it to create collections of articles. The full post provides more information.

datahub collections

We have continued to collect useful bibliographic collections throughout the year, and these along with all others discovered by the community can be found on the datahub in the bibliographic group.

Open Access / Bibliography advocacy videos and presentations

As part of a Sprint in January we recorded videos of the work we were doing and the roles we play in this project and wider biblio promotion; we also made a how-to for using BibServer, including feedback from a new user: Setting up a Bibserver and Faceted Browsing (Mark MacGillivray) from Bibsoup Project on Vimeo. Peter and Tom Murray-Rust’s video, made into a prezi, has proven useful in explaining the basics of the need for Open Bibliography and Open Access:

Community activities

The Open Biblio community have gathered for a number of different reasons over the duration of this project: the project team met in Cambridge and Edinburgh to plan work in Sprints; Edinburgh also played host to a couple of Meet-ups for the wider open community, as did London; and London hosted BiblioHack – a hackathon / workshop for established enthusasiasts as well as new faces, both with and without technical know-how. These events – particularly BiblioHack – attracted people from all over the UK and Europe, and we were pleased that the work we are doing is gaining attention from similar projects world-wide.

Further collaborations

Lessons

Over the course of this project we have learnt that open source development provides great flexibility and power to do what we need to do, and open access in general frees us from many difficult constraints. There is now a lot of useful information available online for how to do open source and open access. Whilst licensing remains an issue, it becomes clear that making everything publicly and freely available to the fullest extent possible is the simplest solution, causing no further complications down the line. See the open definition as well as our principles for more information. We discovered during the BibJSON spec development that it must be clear whether a specification is centrally controlled, or more of a communal agreement on use. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, however they are not compatible – although one may become the other. We took the communal agreement approach, as we found that in the early stages there was more value in exposing the spec to people as widely and openly as possible than in maintaining close control. Moving to a close control format requires specific and ongoing commitment. Community building remains tricky and somewhat serendipitous. Just as word-of-mouth can enhance reputation, failure of certain communities can detrimentally impact other parts of the project. Again, the best solution is to ensure everything is as open as possible from the outset, thereby reducing the impact of any one particular failure.

Opportunities and Possibilities

Over the two years, the concept of open bibliography has gone from requiring justification to being an expectation; the value of making this metadata openly available to the public is now obvious, and getting such access is no longer so difficult; where access is not yet available, many groups are now moving toward making it available. And of course, there are now plenty tools to make good use of available metadata. Future opportunities now lie in the more general field of Open Scholarship, where a default of Open Bibliography can be leveraged to great effect. For example, recent Open Access mandates by many UK funding councils (eg Finch Report) could be backed up by investigative checks on the accessibility of research outputs, supporting provision of an open access corpus of scholarly material. We intend now to continue work in this wider context, and we will soon publicise our more specific ideas; we would appreciate contact with other groups interested in working further in this area.

Further information

For the original project overview, see http://openbiblio.net/p/jiscopenbib2; also, a full chronological listing of all our project posts is available at http://openbiblio.net/tag/jiscopenbib2/. The work package descriptions are available at http://openbiblio.net/p/jiscopenbib2/work-packages/, and links to posts relevant to each work package over the course of the project follow:
  • WP1 Participation with Discovery programme
  • WP2 Collaborate with partners to develop social and technical interoperability
  • WP3 Open Bibliography advocacy
  • WP4 Community support
  • WP5 Data acquisition
  • WP6 Software development
  • WP7 Beta deployment
  • WP8 Disruptive innovation
  • WP9 Project management (NB all posts about the project are relevant to this WP)
  • WP10 Preparation for service delivery
All software developed during this project is available on open source licence. All the data that was released during this project fell under OKD compliant licenses such as PDDL or CC0, depending on that chosen by the publisher. The content of our site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (all jurisdictions). The project team would like to thank supporting staff at the Open Knowledge Foundation and Cambridge University Library, the OKF Open Bibliography working group and Open Access working group, Neil Wilson and the team at the British Library, and Andy McGregor and the rest of the team at JISC.

Open source development – how we are doing

- May 29, 2012 in BibServer, JISC OpenBib, jiscopenbib2, licensing, progress, progressPosts, projectMethodology, projectPlan, riskAnalysis, software, WIN, wp10, wp2, wp3, wp6, wp9

Whilst at Open Source Junction earlier this year, I talked to Sander van der Waal and Rowan Wilson about the problems of doing open source development. Sander and Rowan work at OSS watch, and their aim is to make sure that open source software development delivers its potential to UK HEI and research; so, I thought it would be good to get their feedback on how our project is doing, and if there is anything we are getting wrong or could improve on. It struck me that as other JISC projects such as ours are required to make their output similarly publicly available, this discussion may be of benefit to others; after all, not everyone knows what open source software is, let alone the complexities that can arise from trying to create such software. Whilst we cannot help avoid all such complexities, we can at least detail what we have found helpful to date, and how OSS Watch view our efforts. I provided Sander and Rowan a review of our project, and Rowan provided some feedback confirming that overall we are doing a good job, although we lack a listing of the other open source software our project relies on, and their licenses. Whilst such data can be discerned from the dependencies of the project, this is not clear enough; I will add a written list of dependencies to the README. The response we received is provided below, followed by the overview I initially provided, which gives a brief overview of how we managed our open source development efforts: ==== Rowan Wilson, OSS Watch, responds: Your work on this project is extremely impressive. You have the systems in place that we recommend for open development and creation of community around software, and you are using them. As an outsider I am able to quickly see that your project is active and the mailing list and roadmap present information about ways in which I could participate. One thing I could not find, although this may be my fault, is a list of third party software within the distribution. This may well be because there is none, but it’s something I would generally be keen to see for the purposes of auditing licence compatibility. Overall though I commend you on how tangible and visible the development work on this project is, and on the focus on user-base expansion that is evident on the mailing list. ==== Mark MacGillivray wrote: Background – May 2011, OKF / AIM bibserver project Open Knowledge Foundation contracted with American Institute of Mathematics under the direction of Jim Pitman in the dept. of Maths and Stats at UC Berkeley. The purpose of the project was to create an open source software repository named BibServer, and to develop a software tool that could be deployed by anyone requiring an easy way to put and share bibliographic records online. A repository was created at http://github.com/okfn/bibserver, and it performs the usual logging of commits and other activities expected of a modern DVCS system. This work was completed in September 2011, and the repository has been available since the start of that project with a GNU Affero GPL v3 licence attached. October 2011 – JISC Open Biblio 2 project The JISC Open BIblio 2 project chose to build on the open source software tool named BibServer. As there was no support from AIM for maintaining the BibServer repository, the project took on maintenance of the repository and all further development work, with no change to previous licence conditions. We made this choice as we perceive open source licensing as a benefit rather than a threat; it fit very well with the requirements of JISC and with the desires of the developers involved in the project. At worst, an owner may change the licence attached to some software, but even in such a situation we could continue our work by forking from the last available open source version (presuming that licence conditions cannot be altered retrospectively). The code continues to display the licence under which it is available, and remains publicly downloadable at http://github.com/okfn/bibserver. Should this hosting resource become publicly unavailable, an alternative public host would be sought. Development work and discussion has been managed publicly, via a combination of the project website at http://openbiblio.net/p/jiscopenbib2, the issue tracker at http://github.com/okfn/bibserver/issues, a project wiki at http://wiki.okfn.org/Projects/openbibliography, and via a mailing list at openbiblio-dev@lists.okfn.org February 2012 – JISC Open Biblio 2 offers bibsoup.net beta service In February the JISC Open Biblio 2 project announced a beta service available online for free public use at http://bibsoup.net. The website runs an instance of BibServer, and highlights that the code is open source and available (linking to the repository) to anyone who wishes to use it. Current status We believe that we have made sensible decisions in choosing open source software for our project, and have made all efforts to promote the fact that the code is freely and publicly available. We have found the open source development paradigm to be highly beneficial – it has enabled us to publicly share all the work we have done on the project, increasing engagement with potential users and also with collaborators; we have also been able to take advantage of other open source software during the project, incorporating it into our work to enable faster development and improved outcomes. We continue to develop code for the benefit of people wishing to publicly put and share their bibliographies online, and all our outputs will continue to be publicly available beyond the end of the current project.

Planning for the next three months

- March 20, 2012 in BibServer, JISC OpenBib, jiscopenbib2, minutes, OKFN Openbiblio, wp10, wp2, wp3, wp4, wp5, wp6, wp7, wp8, wp9

We have developed BibJSON
We’ve improved BibServer
We’ve made BibSoup

…But what’s next? The nature of cutting-edge technology is that it is fast-paced and constantly adapting. We may think we’ve come up with a good idea, but if it turns out someone else has already had that idea and developed it – that’s great and means we incorporate it and go on to the next exciting thing. We may think that this next thing is important, but if it turns out it doesn’t quite do the helpful thing needed to make our users delighted or promote open bibliographic data – we change tack and try something else. We know what we want to do, ie make useful and smart tools for the people doing wonderful things in the public domain, but, as for what our end product looks like (if indeed there is the one product to play with) – well, that all depends on the emerging requirements, other technologies that come to light and how successful our ideas are along the way. Taking all that into account, at the Sprint last week we attempted to plan for the next three months. Our work will be more successful the more focused we are, and having an end-result in mind is useful for that. So, here’s a rough guide to how we think our project will shape up between now and June: To-Do Timeline NB the images are a little fuzzy, but do click on them to follow the links to Flickr where these are stored and appear more clearly. We have already published the CUL blog post and Mark has written about BiBServer functionality that arose from ideas at the Sprint. We’ll develop these ideas into workable and worthwhile tools or processes, and before we know it we’ll be three months down the line and thinking ‘…but what’s next?’