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ECS releases all public data in open linked data format

13 July 2010

In what is believed also to be a world-first, ECS has become the UK’s first University department to release all its public data in open linked data format.

The School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton is at the forefront of the open linked data initiative through the work of its Professors Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt.

Now, in accordance with the spirit of the initiative, ECS has released all its own data for public reuse. This includes data about research papers in the EPrints archive (announced this in the official global rankings as one of the top ten in the world), people in the School, research groups, teaching modules, seminars and events, buildings and rooms.

All public (RDF) data from and is now available and can be reused for any legal purpose, including derivative works and commercial use. The School has opted for a creative commons public domain (CC0) license to allow the data to be reused.

Christopher Gutteridge, ECS Web Projects Manager, comments: “We believe that in the future this will become common practice for certain types of open data, and it is our responsibility to lead the way in setting the standards of best practice.”

“We have decided not to make attribution of our data a legal requirement, as this makes it difficult to create large scale mashups.

“So, rather than ‘MUST attribute’, our policy is ‘please attribute’. Obviously an attribution would be nice, but we don’t want to restrict innovation by requiring it under all circumstances.

Professor Nigel Shadbolt comments: “The University of Southampton has pioneered some of the most important developments in the Semantic Web and Open Access in recent years. This announcement will ensure more data is released in the right format to enable new innovative uses of the information.

“This kind of open data policy will become the standard by which all public institutions are judged. Working with the UK government over the past year Tim Berners-Lee and I have been looking to change everyone’s attitude to data. Publicly-held non-personal data is now being released all over the country and as this continues we’ll see innovation to exploit it and applications that use it.’

All the ECS information released is already available as HTML on the School’s websites. Contact details of people are only included if they have previously opted into the University's public directory.

“What’s new about what we are doing now is that by providing the RDF we are making it possible for other computers to understand the information,” says Christopher.

“We have no idea how people will reuse our data,” he adds, “but we are excited to find out!

More information on the available data from ECS:

Over the summer the School plans to make the ECS SPARQL endpoint available to the public as part of its supported website features such as RSS or iCalendar files. In the near future SPARQL will be used to build parts of the School’s own websites.

“We’ve found the process of ‘eating our own dogfood’ very educational,” says Christopher, “since it has resolved many issues with our RDF data which we would not have otherwise been aware of. We are already using this in a limited way to dynamically build and using the SPARQL.

The ECS data can be explored in a browser here:

ECS has provided RDF data for around five years.

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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