Digging in the library

King, David (2013). Digging in the library. In: Biodiversity Informatics Horizons 2013, 3-6 Sep 2013, CNR & La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.

URL: http://conference.lifewatch.unisalento.it/index.ph...


“You want to talk about climate change – change from what? Or invasive species – coming from where? To help us understand what is happening today, we need to unlock the old literature to understand what was happening yesterday.”

To understand fully the world around us as it is now we need to understand how it was before. We are fortunate in biodiversity to have more than 250 years of observations of the natural world sitting on library shelves that can help us understand how the world used to be. Or could, if we could had the time to read all 300 million pages. If humans don’t have the time, perhaps computers can help. How can we liberate the data and reveal what we already know?

This talk covers some of the computing techniques developed to extract explicit data, such as taxon names and locations, as well as implicit data, such as concepts and relationships, while overcoming the problems inherent in digitising printed matter. However, just extracting data is not enough to make it usable. Hence, the talk concludes with examples of how linked open data addresses this second problem and thereby lets us reveal what we already know.

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