The first release of the webtracks application is now available for download from the Webtracks SourceForge site. The application is built on the Java Restlet Framework. It provides a flexible foundation with extension points for developers to fast track custom implementation of the InteRCom protocol using the rich features provided by the Restlet framework. To illustrate how the application is used, the source code for an exemplar based on the ePublications archive is also available for download. Please see the project wiki for more info.
A recent article in the Guardian highlighted the dilemmas for open science. The brave new world of Science 2.0 enables researchers to ‘lay claim to an idea not by publishing first in a’ peer-reviewed ‘journal … but by sharing their work online in an instant…’ Yet, how do you measure the impact of an idea embedded in an on-line conversation, like a blog? And do you trust everything you read on-line? It seems to me there are no easy answers. However, I hope what we are doing in WebTracks would encourage researchers to participate in sharing their work on-line. Our InteRCom protocol would enable the linking of digital research objects, including datasets, as a semantically annotated virtual graph. Users can navigate this graph of Linked Data to follow the evolution of a piece of research, to access the supporting data and artifacts to evaluate the soundness of the work. And if you are a contributor, the graph provides a citation framework to ensure that your contribution will be noted. If you are a researcher, what would encourage you to take the plunge? Do you need better technical safeguards like the ability to control whom or how much you want to share or do you want to see a step change in social attitude towards reward and recognition first?
WebTracks is a JISC project which is exploring how to communicate and use links between data to support research.
Its easy to add links – in the web, or using RDF statements to capture relationships in the semantic web. But it is sometimes useful to tell someone else that you have made the link – particularly the person you have linked to. For example, if you cite someone else’s data in your work, in your paper or your blog, it would be a good idea to tell them that you have made the link. Its good for them – they know that their data has been reused. And its also good for you – if they then create a link back to you, people can find your work more easily.
So rather than waiting for others to harvest your linked data, offer it to them so they can add it to their linked data store.
WebTracks is exploring protocols and tools to allow people to communicate links and relationships simply and automatically, and with the minimum of changes to what they already do. And by building knowledge of how resources are linked together we can identify particular research objects, which collect data together which share relationships.
WebTracks follows on from two previous JISC projects – Claddier and Storelink – which started to develop this idea. Webtracks generalises the idea to a general level and explores its practical use futher.