Alistair Miles

Month: June, 2007

Zoological Case Studies in Digital Curation – DCC SCARP / ImageStore

I’ve started work on a project investigating current practices in digital curation across a variety of scientific displines. The project is called SCARP, and falls within the remit of the UK’s Digital Curation Centre (DCC).

I’m working on a sub-project within SCARP called ImageStore, which has identified four case studies involving the curation of images, video and associated (meta)data used as primary objects within the scholarly work flow. It is entirely by coincidence that three of these case studies involve research groups at the Zoology Department at Oxford University, where I am now spending two days a week embedded in the Image Bioinformatics Research Group, and that my bachelors degree was in Zoology (at Cambridge) – it must be destiny 🙂

The ImageStore case studies are interesting – one involves videos of badgers and other species used as part of wildlife conservation studies, another involves video of tool-making behaviour in crows (you wouldn’t believe what these crows can do), another involves images of in-situ gene expression in Drosophila (fruit fly) testes, and another involves electron micrographs and tomographs (3D pictures) of Trypanosomes (they cause sleeping sickness).

Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration in the Value Grid for Semantic Technologies

I’ve submitted a final version of a paper for the e-Science All Hands Meeting this year, now entitled “Collaboration in the Value Grid for Semantic Technologies”. The main body of the paper is much the same as the previous version, although I’ve tried to emphasise the link between the two main sections on value and collaboration. See e.g. the following extract:

Ontologies are not the only means of articulating a shared conceptualisation, however. Controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, thesauri, classification schemes, topic maps, subject heading systems, semantic networks – to name a selection – are all specifications of a shared conceptualisation, albeit “informal” or “semi-formal”. These and many other types of product have to be considered, in order to design solutions to specific problems at reasonable cost; solutions that are feasible, scalable and part of a sustainable business model. This begs a number of questions. What possible paths exist from knowledge expressed informally (unstructured information) to formal ontologies? How can these paths be broken down into stages, and what does each stage produce? In what ways can these different products be exploited? What are the likely costs, benefits and risks associated with different paths and different stages? How much human effort will be required, and how can this effort be reduced by computation? How can the necessary human effort be organised into efficient work flows that enable collaboration? Does economic and practical scalability vary with different paths and different products?

This paper works towards answers to these questions, by viewing ontologies as products in a value grid of semantic technologies, and by examining collaboration as a critical component of all value-adding activities within this grid. The dual focus of this paper on value and collaboration is emphasised, because these points of view are complementary. Whereas the focus on value leads to a better understanding of products and the ways in which they can be broken down, planned and exploited, the focus on collaboration leads to a better understanding of processes and the ways in which they can be structured and managed.