UK Museums and the Semantic Web

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Museum Studies


The World Wide Web has changed ways people find and sue information. Since its beginnings as a collaboration tool for physicists, it has become a truly global channel for distributed publication of information. More recently, where once content was passive text on a page, it is fast becoming dynamic, flexible and responsive to the needs of its users. The result is a fundamental change in what it means to be a knowledge-based industry. As key sectors within the knowledge economy, the future sustainability of the academic and cultural sectors is dependant on how effectively and intuitively we make relevant and accessible the vast amounts of globally important information we hold. On the current Web it is not easy for users to determine quality, authority or value of information. The Web is delivered through technology that has no way of distinguishing value, or between content about, for instance, the football results and quantum hydrodynamics.
It doesn't 'know' anything about the information it presents in a way that a person can. The Web today relies on services like Google to create search results from document content and human searching behaviour.
This is far from ideal. However, the Web is now undergoing the next stage of evolution. If the existing Web can be compared to a book, with its pages of information, the future lies in making this information dynamic and meaningful to a truly global audience. This is the goal of the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web is the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Professor of Computer Science at Southampton University. It is best thought of as a set of standards and approaches to make content 'self - describing' and create networks which approximate an 'understanding' of that content.
Imagine search engines 'understanding' what you're looking for. Imagine automated ways of pulling content together from vast numbers of different pages' and reassembling them to create entirely new online services. Imagine enabling people to build incrementally on the context of a piece of information via intelligent links. These are objectives of the Semantic Web.
We hold vast amounts of authoritative information and the expertise which we share - in creating, structuring and interpreting that information - mean that we are in a strong position to be part of a more effective Web. Realisation of the Semantic Web might depend the quality of the 'metadata' - structured summaries of information, and how this metadata is organised conceptually for machines to understand. Knowledge owners need to be given tools to do it.
Some of this is in place, such as metadata formats like 'Dublin Core' and relationship formats like 'Topic Maps', but these need understanding and careful development for practical use. Both sectors are developing approaches to the Semantic Web, but these developments are happening largely separately. We are now at a stage where we can access progress on the academic, technical development of the Semantic Web and focus on how we can practically begin to use it. It is timely, then, to instigate these workshops.
Although a number of key stakeholders (including the JISC and MLA) have a strong interest in this area, there is no single forum through which the communities collaborate. The main impetus for this proposal is to offer a unique environment, bringing together key figures academia and cultural institutions to shape the roadmap for our involvement in the Semantic Web.
David Dawson, Head of Digital Future at MLA said: 'Realising the potential of the Semantic Web is central to the delivery of the Common Information Environment, and as such a key factor in the future development of both the academic and culture sectors. What is needed is an opportunity to bring the key players together and identify the challenges and


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Description Dr. Parry (the PI) has submitted an application to the AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship scheme to work for a year (part-time) with MDA 
Organisation Muscular Dystrophy Association
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report