Tag Archives: resource description

What am I doing here? 3. Tabular Application Profiles

The third thing (of four) that I want to include in my review of what projects I am working on is the Dublin Core standard for Tabular Application Profiles. It’s another of my favourites, a volunteer effort under the DCMI Application Profiles Working Group.

Application profiles are a powerful concept, central to how RDF can be used to create new data models without creating entirely new standards. The DCTAP draft says this about them:

An application profile defines metadata usage for a specific application. Profiles are often created as texts that are intended for a human audience. These texts generally employ tables to list the elements of the profile and related rules for metadata creation and validation. Such a document is particularly useful in helping a community reach agreement on its needs and desired solutions. To be usable for a specific function these decisions then need to be translated to computer code, which may not be a straightforward task.

About the work

We have defined an (extensible) set of twelve elements that can be used as headers in a table defining an application profile, a primer showing how they can be used, and along the way we wrote a framework for talking about metadata and application profiles. We have also worked on various implementations and are set to create a cookbook showing how DC TAP can be used in real world applications. The primer is the best starting point for understanding the output as a whole.

The framework for talking about metadata came about because we were struggling to be clear when we used terms like property or entity. Does “property” refer to something in the application profile or in the base standard or in as used in some metadata instance or does it refer to a property of some thing in the world? In short we decided that the things being described have characteristics and relationship to each other which are asserted in RDF metadata using statements that have a predicates in them, those predicates reference properties that are part of a pre-defined vocabulary, and an application profile defines templates for how the property is used in statements to create descriptions. There is a similar string of suggestions for talking about entities, classes and shapes as well as some comments on what we found too confusing and so avoid talking about. With a little care you can use terms that are both familiar in context and not ambiguous.

About my role

This really is a team effort, expertly lead by Karen Coyle, and I just try to help. I will put my hand up as the literal minded pedant who needed a framework to make sure we all understood each other. Otherwise I have been treating this a side project that gives me an excuse to do some python programming: I have documented my TAP2SHACL and related scripts on this blog, which focus on taking a DCMI TAP and expressing it as SHACL that can be used to validate data instances. I have been using this on some other projects that I am involved in, notably the work with PESC looking at how they might move to JSON-LD.

DCAT AP DC TAP: a grown up example of TAP to SHACL

I’ve described a couple of short “toy” examples as proof of concept of turning a Dublin Core Application Profile (DC TAP) into SHACL in order to validate instance data: the SHACL Person Example and a Simple Book Example; now it is time to see how the approach fares against a real world example. I chose the EU joinup Data Catalog Application Profile (DCAT AP) because Karen Coyle had an interest in DCAT, it is well documented (pdf) with a github repo that has SHACL files, there is a Interoperability Test Bed validator for it (albeit a version late) and I found a few test instances with known errors (again a little dated). I also found the acronym soup of DCAT AP DC TAP irresistable.
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Application Profile to Validation with TAP to SHACL

Over the past couple of years or so I have been part of the Dublin Core Application Profile Interest Group creating the DC Tabular Application Profile (DC-TAP) specification. I described DC-TAP in a post about a year ago as a “human-friendly approach that also lends itself to machine processing­”, in this post I’ll explore a little about how it lends itself to machine processing.
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JSON Schema for JSON-LD

I’ve been working recently on definining RDF application profiles, defining specifications in JSON-Schema, and converting specifications from a JSON Schema to an RDF representation. This has lead to me thinking about, and having conversations with people  about whether JSON Schema can be used to define and validate JSON-LD. I think the answer is a qualified “yes”. Here’s a proof of concept; do me a favour and let me know if you think it is wrong.

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Book chapter: Technology Strategies for Open Educational Resource Dissemination

A book with a chapter by Lorna M Campbell and I has just been published. The book is Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education edited by Patrick Blessinger and TJ Bliss, published by Open Book Publishers.

There are contributions by people I know and look up to in the OER world, and some equally good chapters by folk I had not come across before. It seems to live up to its billing of offering an international perspective by not being US-centric (though it would be nice to see more from S America, Asia and Africa), and it provides a wide view of Open Education, not limited to Open Education Resources. There is a foreword by David Wiley, a chapter on a human rights theory for open education by the editors, one on whether emancipation through open education is theory or rhetoric by Andy Lane. Other people from the Open University’s Open Education team (Martin Weller, Beatriz de los Arcos, Rob Farrow, Rebecca Pitt and Patrick McAndrew) have written about identifying categories of OER users.  There are chapters on aspects such as open science, open text books, open assessment and credentials for open learning; and several case studies and reflections on open education in practice.

Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education is available under a CC:BY licence as a free PDF, as very cheap mobi or ePub, or reasonably priced soft and hard back editions. You should get a copy from the publishers.

Technology Strategies for OER

The chapter that Lorna and I wrote is an overview drawing on our experiences through the UKOER programme and our work on LRMI looking at managing the dissemination and discovery of open education resources. Here’s the abstract in full, and a link to the final submitted version of our chapter.

This chapter addresses issues around the discovery and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) by presenting a state of the art overview of technology strategies for the description and dissemination of content as OER. These technology strategies include institutional repositories and websites, subject specific repositories, sites for sharing specific types of content (such as video, images, ebooks) and general global repositories. There are also services that aggregate content from a range of collections, these may specialize by subject, region or resource type. A number of examples of these services are analyzed in terms of their scope, how they present resources, the technologies they use and how they promote and support a community of users. The variety of strategies for resource description taken by these platforms is also discussed. These range from formal machine-readable metadata to human readable text. It is argued that resource description should not be seen as a purely technical activity. Library and information professionals have much to contribute, however academics could also make a valuable contribution to open educational resource (OER) description if the established good practice of identifying the provenance and aims of scholarly works is applied to learning resources. The current rate of change among repositories is quite startling with several repositories and applications having either shut down or having changed radically in the year or so that the work on which this contribution is based took. With this in mind, the chapter concludes with a few words on sustainability.

Preprint of full chapter (MS Word)