by SF Team, 1 March 2016
Twice a year some Fellows graduate from our fellowship programme. On 1 March, Dan Whaley and Peter Murray-Rust become alumni.
Dan is the founder of Hypothes.is, developing an open, interoperable conversation layer over the web. During Dan’s 3 years of fellowship, Hypothesis has grown from an early stage idea to a fully fledged organisation. They develop essential annotation tools and support annotation efforts in journalism, education and science. Hypothesis is also the hub of a coalition to Annotate All Knowledge. Coalition members have agreed to begin the exploration and experimentation required to understand how best to implement a standards-based annotation layer over their content. The standards process is being supported by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who established a formal Working Group to standardise “annotation” as a unit of conversation built into the web.
We are especially excited about how far this idea has come, having originated as AnnotateIt, a side project from an early Fellows collaboration between Rufus Pollock and Philipp Schmidt. Dan has done great work to help the tools mature, to grow a collaborative community and to achieve the ability to handle scale.
Dan is very good at clearly articulating his vision and the value proposition of Hypothesis. He is also adept at organisational and process management and has freely shared his experience and expertise with other Fellows. Dan’s thoughtful approach to the sustainability of Hypothesis and web annotation more broadly has created a solid base from which to move forward.
Peter is a life long practitioner and advocate of open science in all its forms. During the fellowship he focused his efforts on The Content Mine, liberating facts from scholarly articles under the now widely used call “The right to read is the right to mine”. Access to facts contained in scholarly literature should be a basic right for all and has the opportunity to greatly increase the benefit of scientific research to society. While some academic systems have this functionality already, it really should be available beyond wealthy institutions that are able to pay license fees. Peter’s efforts are in support of the relevant recommendations made in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth and the subsequent amendments made to UK copyright laws that came into force on 1 June 2014 .
Peter and his team produced free and open source software that can be used by anyone to data mine the texts they are most interested in. Beyond extracting facts from scholarly publications, the tools have already been used effectively to extract data from public filings. It is not just an extraction tool, but also a sense-making tool.
The text and data mining regulation was a great step towards increasing useful access to scholarly findings. However, it is clear that researchers are still wary of taking advantage of this freedom. In addition to making tools available, there is a great deal of advocacy work to be done, both to put the UK law in practice and to encourage similar legal provisions in Europe and other parts of the world. Efforts by scholarly publishers to discourage or even prevent such activity is disappointing to say the least. In light of this, Peter and his team of talented and committed young scientists and developers, who share a vision of open science, will expand their efforts in this regard.