Defrosting the Digital Library: A survey of bibliographic tools for the next generation web


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After centuries with little change, scientific libraries have recently experienced massive upheaval. From being almost entirely paper-based, most libraries are now almost completely digital. This information revolution has all happened in less than 20 years and has created many novel opportunities and threats for scientists, publishers and libraries.

Today, we are struggling with an embarassing wealth of digital knowledge on the Web. Most scientists access this knowledge through some kind of digital library, however these places can be cold, impersonal, isolated, and inaccessible places. Many libraries are still clinging to obsolete models of identity, attribution, contribution, citation and publication.

Based on a review published in PLoS Computational Biology, this talk will discuss the current chilly state of digital libraries for biologists, chemists and informaticians, including PubMed and Google Scholar. We highlight problems and solutions to the coupling and decoupling of publication data and metadata, with a tool called This software tool exploits the Web to make digital libraries “warmer”: more personal, sociable, integrated, and accessible places.

Finally issues that will help or hinder the continued warming of libraries in the future, particularly the accurate identity of authors and their publications, are briefly introduced. These are discussed in the context of the BBSRC funded REFINE project, at the National Centre for Text Mining (, which is linking biochemical pathway data with evidence for pathways from the PubMed database.

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Defrosting the Digital Library: A survey of bibliographic tools for the next generation web

  1. 1. Defrosting the Digital Library A survey of bibliographic tools for the next generation Web Duncan Hull Faculty of Life Sciences (1992-6) BSc. Computer Science (2002-2007) MSc, PhD. Chemistry (2008-date) Postdoc
  2. 2. It’s all Casey’s fault! Dr. Casey Bergman, Lecturer Faculty of Life Sciences I s!
  3. 3. <ul><li> </li></ul>
  4. 4. Defrosting the Digital Library (in one slide) <ul><li>There are lots of digital libraries out there for scientists! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ACM, IEEE, PubMed, DBLP, Scopus, ISI-WoK, Google Scholar, arXiv </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But they have some fundamental problems with their data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identity crisis: identifying people accurately </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identity crisis: identifying publications accurately </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keeping data and metadata coupled together </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Impersonal, unsociable, difficult to use: “Cold” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some new tools exist to make things better: “warmer” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Citeulike, Mendeley, Zotero, Papyro, Papers etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>BUT Fundamental problems with identity and data need to be fixed before the tools will get any better </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Metawhat? getMetadata getData <ul><li>From the Greek μετ ά (meta) meaning after </li></ul><ul><ul><li>metadata not just data about data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>metadata is data after data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>data first </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>metadata second </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reversible reaction (“round-tripping”) </li></ul></ul>Title: defrosting the digital library Authors: Duncan Hull, Steve Pettifer and Douglas Kell Published: 2008 Journal: PLoS Computational Biology Tell me more? What is it about? Where did it come from?
  6. 6. Metadata in: Chemistry (Science of Matter) Biology (Science of Life) Informatics (Science of Information) Cheminformatics Biochemistry Bioinformatics Science!
  7. 7. R epresenting E vidence F or I nteracting N etwork E lements from database at the
  8. 8. Example from Glycolysis in Yeast reactant reactant product product modifier This is just one reaction, there are at least another 1700+ in Yeast
  9. 9. Synonyms from Pedro Mendes B-Net Database Robison ester, D-Glucose 6-phosphate Glucose-6-phosphate 5'-adenylphosphoric acid; Adenosine 5'-diphosphate; H3adp ADP Hexokinase-1; Hexokinase-A; Hexokinase PI; YFR053C Hexokinase Adenosine 5'-triphosphate; Adenosine triphosphate; H4atp ATP dextrose; D-Glucose; D-(+)-glucose; D(+)-glucose; grape sugar; Traubenzucker D-Glucose Synonyms Name
  10. 10. Chemistry Biology Informatics Cheminformatics Biochemistry Bioinformatics
  11. 11. For more info. One of the biggest challenges is getting hold of accurate metadata from libraries and databases
  12. 12. But first… <ul><li>Before getting into the paper… </li></ul><ul><li>Some lessons I learnt while working in industrial informatics for a small startup company called CSW Informatics Ltd </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ford and BBC </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How business and governments manage metadata </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Ford Focus (launched 1998) </li></ul>getMetadata getData 6 million+ “units” sold worldwide to date: america, europe, middle east, africa, australasia Lots of data, metadata and money! Owner’s handbook Tell me more? What is it about?
  14. 14. Final solution: Web XSLT Print
  15. 15. Summary: Lessons from Ford <ul><li>Data often the tip of the iceberg </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If the data doesn’t sink you, the metadata will </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Businesses like Ford spent $ £ € keeping data and metadata stay together </li></ul><ul><li>Data is often worthless without it </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can’t sell data (cars) without metadata (manuals) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t just “make cars” </li></ul></ul>DATA METADATA
  16. 17. BBC Spooks? <ul><li>Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) </li></ul><ul><li>Overt not Covert espionage: 370 journalists, 24-7, ~100 languages Caversham, Reading. </li></ul>Keeping an eye on people around the world since 1939 Winston Churchill “ B ig B ritish C astle” (BBC)
  17. 18. I hate powerpoint Radio MS Word TV
  18. 19. How do they stay in business? Broadcasting House, London Foreign governments, e.g. U.S.A. etc
  19. 20. Word: Not the best way to manage data and metadata
  20. 21. Getting Rid of Word database XML schema Web & Intranet Printed documents XSLT
  21. 22. A solution that worked! getMetadata getData Who is Thabo Mbeki? These documents are all about Thabo Mbeki Thabo Mbeki
  22. 23. Summary: Lessons from the BBC <ul><li>Important decisions made on the basis metadata </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Crucial that metadata is accurate, high quality and trustworthy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify people properly is crucial (100%) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You know what data is about (getMetadata) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You know where it came from (getData) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Looked after properly (this can be expensive) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Businesses built on buying/selling metadata: </li></ul></ul>
  23. 24. How have libraries managed metadata? <ul><li>On paper since 300 B.C. </li></ul><ul><li>(Library of Alexandria) </li></ul><ul><li>Organised in physical space </li></ul><ul><li>In buildings made from bricks and mortar </li></ul><ul><li>Expensive and slow distribute </li></ul><ul><li>Only ever read by humans </li></ul><ul><li>Filled with content bought from publishers, locked up with copyright  </li></ul>Image via
  24. 25. From ~1824 until ~1989 Photos via dpicker and pit yacker JRULM (Main Library) Joule Library Mostly “private” only available to an elite (e.g. University of Manchester Students and Staff)
  25. 26. <ul><li>Metadata (after) </li></ul>Data Tightly bound (literally) Rarely separated First published 1687, over 300 years old
  26. 27. Data and metadata was like this for centuries! <ul><li>Until… </li></ul>
  27. 28. + Tim Berners-Lee 1989
  28. 29. Timeline: Unchanged for centuries but… 20 years ÷ 2309 years = <1%
  29. 30. Everything’s Gone Digital! www. isiknowledge .com
  30. 31. Digital Utopia? <ul><li>Bits and bytes 1010100101000001101010 (not paper) </li></ul><ul><li>In pervasive cyberspace (not physical space) </li></ul><ul><li>Databases and/or Web identified by URIs: (not buildings) </li></ul><ul><li>Cost of distribution fallen by orders of magnitude </li></ul><ul><li>Read and indexed by machines like Googlebot et al (not just humans) </li></ul><ul><li>Increasingly public, available to everyone via Open-Access publishing (less private, less restrictive copyright) </li></ul><ul><li>Everything is great? </li></ul>Alexander Griekspoor
  31. 32. Welcome to Digital Dystopia <ul><li>Isolation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>each discipline has its own data silo </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Impersonal and unsociable </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ who the hell are you”? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where are “my” papers? (authored by me, or of interest to me) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are my friends and colleagues reading? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the experts reading? What is popular this week / month / year ? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Cold”: Identity of publications and authors is inadequate </li></ul><ul><li>Data divorced from its metadata </li></ul><ul><ul><li>GetMetadata / GetData unreliable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Therefore can be difficult to tell what data is about, or where metadata came from </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Obsolete models of publication, not everything fits publication-sized holes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Micro-attribution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mega-attribution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digital contributions (databases, software, wikis/blogs?) </li></ul></ul>
  32. 33. Isolated publication silos Chemistry Informatics Biology impersonal, isolated, unsociable, Generally rubbish
  33. 34. Identity Crisis part 1: Which publication? <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>One paper, many URIs. Disambiguation algorithms rely on getting metadata for each </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Big problem for libraries is these redundant duplicates </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Matching can be done by Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and PubMed ID (PMID); </li></ul><ul><ul><li>these are frequently absent < 5% (Kevin Emamy, citeulike) </li></ul></ul>
  34. 35. Identity crisis part 2: Who are you? Who, who … who, who? <ul><li>Douglas Kell </li></ul><ul><li>Doug Kell </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas B Kell </li></ul><ul><li>Kell, D </li></ul><ul><li>Kell, D.B. </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas Bruce Kell </li></ul><ul><li>Druglas Kell </li></ul>Neil Smalheiser and Vetle Torvik Typo Attribution would seem to be a simple process and yet it represents a major, unsolved problem for information science.
  35. 36. Identity crisis part 3: Mistaken Identity <ul><li>Google Scholar thinks I’m Maurice Wilkins </li></ul>Dr. Duncan Hull Humble Postdoc Article about Authored-by Authored-by Wrong! “ DNA mania” title
  36. 37. Can’t get metadata (decoupled from data): PDF getMetadata getData Title: defrosting the digital library Authors: Duncan Hull, Steve Pettifer and Douglas Kell Published: 2008 Tell me more Don’t know, Try google Don’t know, Title might be “ defrosting…” Where did this come from?
  37. 38. Can’t get metadata (decoupled from data): PDF <ul><li>MP3 music file in iTunes </li></ul>Why can't I manage academic papers like MP3s? http: //tinyurl .com/mp3vpdf James Howison, Carnegie Mellon University Data is tightly coupled to its metadata getMetadata getData Artist: The Who Title: Who Are You? Recorded: 1978 Album: Who Are You
  38. 39. Can’t get metadata (decoupled from data): PDF Peter Murray-Rust Hamburger (unstructured data) PDF is a hamburger, and we're trying to turn it back into a cow. Cow (structured data) publishing text-mining
  39. 40. Can’t get metadata (decoupled from data): HTTP <ul><li>Arbitrary URI (not just pubmed, but any scientific paper) </li></ul>
  40. 41. Can’t get metadata (decoupled from data): HTTP <ul><li>Fundamental problem with the way the web is built using HTTP, can’t change it now… </li></ul>Tim Bray, Sun Microsystems One of the Web's distinguishing features is that there's a big gaping hole where the metadata ought to be.
  41. 42. I’ll stop moaning now <ul><li>Isolation </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t identify people </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t identify publications </li></ul><ul><li>Metadata gets divorced from its data </li></ul><ul><li>But what are the solutions? </li></ul>
  42. 43. Richard Cameron Kevin Emamy Picture from and The reason I wrote the site [] was, after recently coming back to academia, I was slightly shocked by the quality of some of the tools available to help academics do their job. I found it preferable to start writing proper tools for my own use than to use existing software.
  43. 44. Why should you care about citeulike? <ul><li>Could save you time </li></ul><ul><li>But also like Green Fluorescent Protein… </li></ul>
  44. 45. All references in one place
  45. 46. Click Post to Citeulike
  46. 47. Tag it (optional)
  47. 48. Citeulike: Recoupling data and metadata <ul><li>Wouldn’t be a problem if the publishers hadn’t decoupled it in the first place! </li></ul>
  48. 49. Citegeist = Citeulike + Zeitgeist
  49. 50. allegedly 2,243,177 ~2,000 /day variable 674,076 2,880 /day 2 papers / min Linear growth ~500,000
  50. 51. Where will citeulike break? <ul><li>The more people that use “social software”, the better they get </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Citeulike is one of the leading ones, but there is plenty of competition </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Parsers are fragile, easily (and deliberately) broken by publishers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ISI WOK and Scopus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each publisher has its own parser (euuuggh!) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Privacy and competition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I don’t want to share any of my data before publication” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It’s nobody’s business but mine” (basic human right to privacy) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Closer integration with Word (and latex tools) </li></ul><ul><li>Might go bust? Why put all my precious data in the hands of a commercial company? </li></ul>
  51. 52. Why should you bother with citeulike? <ul><li>Organisation and time saving </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Searching </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Browsing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Managing references while writing papers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Quick and efficient sharing of data before publication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. tag “defrost” when writing this paper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Serendipity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Casey Bergman story </li></ul></ul>
  52. 53. Casey Bergman story I was importing papers on solexa and 454 genome assembly and came across the following paper: http://www. citeulike .org/user/cisevol/article/1465689 which was a real find in terms of convincing me that light shotgun sequence data is worth analysing. I nicked this from a phd student's library in Brazil http://www. citeulike . org/profile/GustavoLacerda Wouldn’t have found this any other way e.g (keyword searching or following citation trails)
  53. 54. Many different solutions e.g. Papyro: Steve Pettifer
  54. 55. And the rest… Re-couple metadata that has be de-coupled from data “ iTunes for PDF files”
  55. 56. There is still lots more metadata How many times has been cited? Who has cited ? Give me all the references that cite this one Give me all the references cited by Who the hell is Doug Kell? Steve Pettifer? Duncan Hull? What is Doug Kell’s h-index? Remember: Machines ask these questions, not just humans Notify me whenever Steve Pettifer publishes a paper Notify me whenever someone cites Impact factor?
  56. 57. Digital Identity would solve some of these problems Give yourself a URI, you deserve it! Tim Berners-Lee see
  57. 58. URI’s for Douglas Kell <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Contributor identifier” from </li></ul></ul> (Also Note researcher-id from thomson)
  58. 59. <ul><li> </li></ul>Phil Bourne
  59. 60. <ul><li>John Ziman, Physicist </li></ul>Science is public knowledge
  60. 61. Conclusions: What hasn’t changed <ul><li>The Web has revolutionised libraries in just 20 short years but… </li></ul><ul><li>Still takes time for humans to read and digest: We can get more papers but there are still only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We need help from machines (and the people that build them) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to make metadata more machine-friendly </li></ul></ul>
  61. 62. Conclusions: Publication metadata matters <ul><li>Managed to convince you metadata matters (and why) </li></ul><ul><li>People make important decisions based on metadata </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Funding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hiring (and Firing) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publishing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who to collaborate with </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yet our current libraries can’t even accurately identify crucial metadata </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Individual people - digital identity needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publications - disambiguation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Everything else… </li></ul></ul>
  62. 63. Conclusions: Scientists are too blasé about metadata! <ul><li>Leave it to stamp collectors, dusty-librarians, informaticians, database administrators (yawn!), “biocurators” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Boring, unscientific, not cutting-edge innovation? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Everyone wants to use good metadata but few people want to spend time curating and cleaning metadata </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Like a clean toilet </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We ignore metadata at our peril “not my job” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We leave it to publishers, who then mess it up, and charge us for their services, we should be getting better value for money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We waste precious time organising metadata </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We waste precious time searching for metadata </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data is more valuable with better metadata </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Have a look at citeulike (and other tools) </li></ul>metadata
  63. 64. Conclusions: Do us a favour!
  64. 65. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Refine project: Sophia Ananiadou, Jun'ichi Tsujii, Pedro Mendes, Steve Pettifer, Yoshimasa Tsuruoka, Douglas Kell </li></ul><ul><li>BBSRC grant code BB/E004431/1 </li></ul><ul><li>CSW Informatics Ltd.: John Chelsom, Mavis Cournane, Niki Dinsey BBC Monitoring, Ford Motor Company </li></ul><ul><li>School of Chemistry, MIB (now) </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty of Life Sciences (a long long time ago) and Casey Bergman, Jean-Marc Schwartz (now) </li></ul><ul><li>School of Computer Science (not so long ago) Information Management Group </li></ul><ul><li>Any Questions? </li></ul>