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  • What does interoperability mean?

  • What is a controlled vocabulary, a metadata schema and linked data?

  • How do I describe data so that humans and computers can understand?

  • Explain what makes data and software (more) interoperable for machines

  • Identify widely used metadata standards for research, including generic and discipline-focussed examples

  • Explain the role of controlled vocabularies for encoding data and for annotating metadata in enabling interoperability

  • Understand how linked data standards and conventions for metadata schema documentation relate to interoperability

For data & software to be interoperable:

I1. (meta)data use a formal, accessible, shared, and broadly applicable language for knowledge representation
I2. (meta)data use vocabularies that follow FAIR principles
I3. (meta)data include qualified references to other (meta)data

What is interoperability for data and software?

Shared understanding of concepts, for humans as well as machines.

What does it mean to be machine readable vs human readable?

According to the Open Data Handbook:

Human Readable
“Data in a format that can be conveniently read by a human. Some human-readable formats, such as PDF, are not machine-readable as they are not structured data, i.e. the representation of the data on disk does not represent the actual relationships present in the data.”

Machine Readable
“Data in a data format that can be automatically read and processed by a computer, such as CSV, JSON, XML, etc. Machine-readable data must be structured data. Compare human-readable. Non-digital material (for example printed or hand-written documents) is by its non-digital nature not machine-readable. But even digital material need not be machine-readable. For example, consider a PDF document containing tables of data. These are definitely digital but are not machine-readable because a computer would struggle to access the tabular information - even though they are very human readable. The equivalent tables in a format such as a spreadsheet would be machine readable. As another example scans (photographs) of text are not machine-readable (but are human readable!) but the equivalent text in a format such as a simple ASCII text file can machine readable and processable.”

Software uses community accepted standards and platforms, making it possible for users to run the software. Top 10 FAIR things for research software

Describing data and software with shared, controlled vocabularies


Representing knowledge in data and software


Beyond the PDF

Publishers, librarians, researchers, developers, funders, they have all been working towards a future where we can move beyond the PDF, from ‘static and disparate data and knowledge representations to richly integrated content which grows and changes the more we learn.” Research objects of the future will capture all aspects of scholarship: hypotheses, data, methods, results, presentations etc.) that are semantically enriched, interoperable and easily transmitted and comprehended. Attribution, Evaluation, Archiving, Impact

Beyond the PDF has now grown into FORCE… Towards a vision where research will move from document- to knowledge-based information flows semantic descriptions of research data & their structures aggregation, development & teaching of subject-specific vocabularies, ontologies & knowledge graphs Paper of the Future to Jupyter Notebooks/Stencilia

Knowledge representation languages

provide machine-readable (meta)data with a well-established formalism structured, using discipline-established vocabularies / ontologies / thesauri (RDF extensible knowledge representation model, OWL, JSON LD, offer (meta)data ingest from relevant sources (Document Information Dictionary or Extensible Metadata Platform from PDF) provide as precise & complete metadata as possible look for metrics to evaluate the FAIRness of a controlled vocabulary / ontology / thesaurus often do not (yet) exist assist in their development clearly identify relationships between datasets in the metadata (e.g. “is new version of”, “is supplement to”, “relates to”, etc.) request support regarding these tasks from the repositories in your field of study for software: follow established code style guides (thanks to @npch!)

Adding qualified references among data and software

support referencing metadata fields between datasets via a schema (relatedIdentifer, relationType)

Data Science and Digital Libraries => (research) knowledge graph(s) Scientific Data Management Visual Analytics to expose information within videos as keywords => Scientific Knowledge Engineering => ontologies

Example: → Automatic ORCID profile update when DOI is minted DataCite – CrossRef – ORCID collaboration → PID of choice for RDM: Here: The Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Detour: Replication / Reproducibility Crisis Examples of science failing due to software errors/bugs:

“[…] around 70% of research relies on software […] if almost a half of that software is untested, this is a huge risk to the reliability of research results.” Results from a US survey about Research Software Engineers (Daniel S. Katz, Sandra Gesing, Olivier Philippe, and Simon Hettrick) Olivier Philippe, Martin Hammitzsch, Stephan Janosch, Anelda van der Walt, Ben van Werkhoven, Simon Hettrick, Daniel S. Katz, Katrin Leinweber, Sandra Gesing, Stephan Druskat. 2018.

Code style guides & formatters (thanks to Neil Chu Hong) faster than manual/menial formatting code looks the same, regardless of author can be automated enforced to keep diffs focussed, /black, etc. ROpenSci packaging guide

If others can use your code, convey the meaning of updates with (CC BY 3.0) “version number[ changes] convey meaning about the underlying code” (Tom Preston-Werner)

Exercise Python & R Carpentries lessons

Linked Data

Top 10 FAIR things: Linked Open Data

Linked data example Triples - RDF - SPARQL Wikidata exercise


ISA framework: ‘Investigation’ (the project context), ‘Study’ (a unit of research) and ‘Assay’ (analytical measurement) -

Example of rOpenSci/codemetar


codemeta croswalks to other standards


Using community accepted code style guidelines such as PEP 8 for Python (PEP 8 itself is FAIR)

Scholix - related indentifiers - Zenodo example linking data/software to papers

Should vocabularies from reusable episode be moved here?

Key Points

  • Understand that FAIR is about both humans and machines understanding data.

  • Interoperability means choosing a data format or knowledge representation language that helps machines to understand the data.