Research information systems/Open Knowledge Base

Information about research

Knowledge about the output and operation of scientific research is increasingly important. Universities are compared via international rankings. Output of scientists is compared via measures such as citation ranking. This has a significant impact on how research is judged at an individual, department, faculty, university and country level. In addition, new measurements will become available that show a different, more diverse assessment of scientific impact (e.g., different way of recognizing and rewarding scientists, social impact in terms of Sustainable Development Goals). Finally, society as well as the business community, demands fast and transparent access to where which knowledge is produced and how it can be reused.

Current way of working
How data related to publications and other scholarly output is handled and analysed has a crucial impact on judgements about research success of scientists, institutions and countries. This (meta)data related to scholarly communications has been managed in discrete, unconnected and sometimes closed, commercial systems. Such collections of data have been closely tied to the interface to query the data and associated services are often provided by commercial parties. This restricts the powerful capabilities of this data - whoever creates the interface determines what kinds of questions can be asked and whether they are open and widely accessible.

The collective ambition for the Dutch Research Institutions is that this metadata is open for others to access, reuse, enrich and is described according to existing open standards, identifiers, ontologies and thesauri. Open availability of metadata and the information services that can be built on it, are a potential for growth in both the commercial and academic sector.

A Taskforce was set up in early 2020 to give shape to this ambition. In accordance with its assignment, the Taskforce first worked on Guiding Principles that were implemented in the new contract with Elsevier. Next, In addition, an open consultation was held on these principles, which led to version 2.0 (April 2021). These principles are intended to apply to future contracts with all public and private providers of research information systems.

Subsequently, a study is being conducted into the need and feasibility of a so-called Open Knowledge Base in which all data from research information systems are openly available. The potential of metadata is great: we have to ask the strategic question where we want to be in 10 years and what the role of public institutions should be in this. The thoughts surrounding an Open Knowledge Base are further described in two blogs based on initial work of this Taskforce: (1) What is an Open Knowledge base anyway? and (2) Solutions for constructing an Open Knowledge Base for the Netherlands (OKB-NL).