Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Repositioning repositories

There are more and more repositories and their significance for open access as well as for the universities and institutions that operate them grows, too. Yet many repositories have fairly basic functionality. Some don't mind, and see repositories as a way merely to provide open access or to archive the institution's output. This is a pity. Repositioning them, making repositories attractive places to come to for researchers – and to come back to – would greatly help in their potential success. Many are already on that track. And various developers of repository software, such as MIT's DSpace, are already in the process of starting to experiment with embedding technology that helps the discovery of more knowledge by making it possible for repositories to become 'portals' of sorts.

It's easy enough. Have a look at the functionality that can soon be added to any repository (or blog, or personal site, for that matter) and click the 'button' on the upper right hand side of this page that gives you the opportunity to discover more knowledge. Within weeks we hope to make the code for that button publicly and freely available, for anybody to use on any site (watch this space!). And even more functionality is being worked on and in the pipeline. For now, this technology allows you especially to discover knowledge in the main 'domain of its experience', the biomedical areas.

Below, I am listing a few of the more than a million terms that are recognised as concepts and when you click on them, they open up a 'balloon' with links to more knowledge. I'm just doing that because in this blog you may otherwise not really find too many scientific concepts.

But look at these: hepatic stellate cell – immunoreactivity – squamous cell carcinoma – nonhomologous DNA end joining – monoamine oxidase type B (MAOB) – nuclear envelope – rough endoplasmic reticulum – Kupffer cells – plasma membrane – Ku70.

The first thing you can do is search further. The search will automatically include synonyms. Even something simple as skin is, when used to search further, automatically expanded into the search argument: "Skin" OR "Integument" OR "cutaneous tissue" OR "skin system" OR "Integumental system".

But you can also see authors and publications that are specifically related to the concept you're looking at. And you can see what all the other concepts are that are connected to this concept, and how they are connected. All connections are explained, and these explanations have links to the original source from which the connections were 'mined'.

Of course, this is just the beginning. More knowledge and information that is permanent and relevant can – and will – be added in these balloons. If there is anything you would like us to consider to add, please feel free to give feedback. We do like to hear from you! (Use the 'comments' link below or the email address in the top of this blog.)

Jan Velterop

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