What is Sematic Web and Linked Data?

The semantic web infers the meaning, or semantics, of information on the Internet using metadata to make connections and display related information that would otherwise be elusive or altogether invisible. In the 1960s, the Library of Congress developed and released the first protocol for linked metadata, the machine-readable cataloging format, or MARC, as it is commonly known. Advances in these standards and search engine analytics are connecting library catalog systems on the Internet, and using linked data to help users uncover and delve into content that is, for all practical purposes, hidden in the Deep Web. Semantic searching most frequently applies to scientific inquiries, allowing researchers to gather an abundance of relevant, credible information without using a dozen search tools, each with their own precise filters. These emerging Internet technologies have the potential to revolutionize research, unearth troves of scientific knowledge, and transform the way academic stakeholders pursue purposeful investigations.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • I and my library are actively exploring ways semantic web/linked data strategies can support greater discovery, collaboration and innovation within and across the agriculture, food and life sciences fields, spanning the research, education and outreach activities of our scholarly ecosystem. This is exemplified by our recent hiring of a Ontology Engineer and Semantic Applications Developer focused on this work. I see particular areas of opportunity for addressing some of the goals for / barriers to integration across domains in support of the APLU Health Food Systems, Healthy People initiative. - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Its worth noting that the "Semantic Web" is what Tim Berners-Lee, the the inventor of the World Wide Web originally had in mind, when he said (in Weaving the Web) “The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected with anything…that provides us with new freedom…unfettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we’ve bound ourselves…. bringing the workings of society closer to the workings of our minds.” The key distinction is that this approach extends beyond static disconnected content only structured to be human readable, now realizing the “read-write-execute” web (what some refer to as "Web 3.0") so that machines can query, extract and recombine distributed data/content. - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 3, 2016
  • The semantic web is enabled through the "Semantic Web Stack", a combination of standards based technologies working together to make this possible. This article describes and differentiates some of the constructs supporting the semantic web, including taxonomies, thesauri, ontologies and knowledge graphs. The latter is defined as "a network of all kinds of things which are relevant to a specific domain or organization", enabling "complex queries over the entirety of all kinds of information." Certainly where we need to go to address some of those wicked problems like climate change and food insecurity, which no one field or organization can solve on its own... - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 3, 2016
  • One of the slogans of the Semantic Web movement, "A little semantics goes a long way", refers to potentially large value added by just a little descriptive information (e.g. metadata) being included or associated with data and documents we share, so that they may more easily be discovered/used (especially by machines/search engines), and connectable to other/related materials. One might say this, and publishing open access content using open standards, protocols and platforms is an important part of "working out loud"!- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 3, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • This has profound implications for the way knowledge (and its various data and information artifacts) is created, shared, discovered, "connected" and applied, exemplified in projects like the Google Knowledge Graph, which is enabling varied content from widely dispersed sources to be pulled together in convenient and powerful ways. The "knowledge graph" model is one that Land Grant institutions and eXtension/Extension need to pay close attention to, as we transition from a world where value (what some would call competitive advantage) is gained from knowledge stocks to one increasingly reliant on knowledge flows (see The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison). One of the easiest ways we can begin to support this is through the addition of "structured data markup" to our web based content (e.g. schema.org descriptive tags), one of the things leveraged by Google's knowledge graph.- jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
  • The communities we serve (of place, practice, inquiry and interest) already are leveraging this (whether they know it or not) in the places they choose to look for information, and have been moving away from our "stocks" focused model for some time. To remain relevant, we need to "get with the flow"! - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 3, 2016
  • This is leading to a greater focus on smart networks, and distributed or collective intelligence (as opposed to smart people or institutions), where as David Weinberger says, knowledge about any particular topic is becoming Too Big to Know, requiring us to rethink knowledge now that "the smartest person in the room is the room". - jeff.piestrak jeff.piestrak Jun 4, 2016
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project Sharing Form.