Open Context's Applications and Uses
Open Context provides a platform for researchers to publish their primary field data and documentation. Because Open Context is a free and open access service, all members of the public are welcome to use and reuse this content. All contributions to Open Context are monitored by a professional editorial staff to make sure contributions only stem from professional field research programs. The main focus of Open Context is to deliver primary data in cultural heritage related fields. However, we do demonstrate some applications in other disciplines, including the geological sciences and public health.
Data Management Services
The National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humnanities now require "Data Managment Plans" in grant proposals. Both of these federal agencies specifically reference Open Context's data managment services. Open Context provides services for researchers to disseminate data, promote the interoperability of data, and archive data in digital repositories. These services include:
Editorial Review: To reach the point where researcher data can be used by a wider community, datasets must have sufficient quality and documentation. To give context, data also need to be related and linked with shared concepts and with other datasets available on the Web. These goals require specialized expertise and dedicated editorial workflows.
Interoperability and Distributed Systems: Over-centralization in monolithic “one repository to rule them all” systems can put too many information eggs in one limiting basket. Open Context networks data and services across systems inside and outside of archaeology. We work with multiple digital respositories, actively collaborate with other data sharing projects, and work to make sure data published with Open Context can freely flow into other innovative systems and applications.
Preparing Data for Archiving: Open Context itself is not a digital repository that preserves data for the long term. Rather, Open Context provides critical services to prepare data for preservation in other institutional repositories. Open Context integrates and documents multiple forms of media including tabular data, images, geospatial data, and documents. We disseminate this information in open and nonproprietary formats, documented with appropriate metadata. These activities help digital repositories preserve data for the long term as meaningful and intelligible resources.
Archiving and Preservation: Open Context works with multiple university-based digital repositories to archive data. We can assist researchers in archiving with their home institution's libraries. We also use preservation services provided by the University of California's California Digital Library (CDL). CDL services provide Open Context with a strong institutional foundation for long-term citation and data archiving, including:
- Persistent Identifiers: Open Context uses persistent identifer services to facilitate reliable citation and retrieval of data over the long term. We assign ARK identifiers to ("Archival Resource Keys") to individual items of data, and DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) to projects and datasets. ARKs and DOIs are special identifiers managed by institutional repositories that help insure resources associated with these identifiers can be retrieved in the future.
- Data archiving: The CDL also provides data curation and stewardship to maintain integrity of digital data and to migrate data into new computing environments as required.
Version Control and Collaboration: In addition to archiving data with university libraries, Open Context makes data freely available through GitHub. GitHub offers a number of collaboration tools, including robust version control, issue tracking, and the ability to easily "fork" Open Context's data to adapt and use in different settings.
Open Context's services and features enhance the value of primary field documentation, for data creators and the larger community. For researchers wishing to publish data, Open Context offers the following advantages:
- Editorial processes to improve data quality and align data to key standards
- A common platform for uploading and publishing diverse field data
- A simple way to combine and integrate datasets created by multidisciplinary teams
- An easy method to create an "e-appendix" to complement a formal publication with rich media and comprehensive analytic data
- A Web-friendly framework for making datasets easy to discover via Google and easy to use with common Web-browsers
- A suite of powerful web-services that make published datasets easily visualized and used in a host of web-based and desktop applications
Open Architecture and Open Data
Open Context licenses all content with Creative Commons, and makes it available in a variety of machine-readible formats. These steps make Open Context data legally and technologically portable (i.e. able to move across systems). Individuals who find Open Context semantics and other features too limiting are free (and welcome) to simply copy all data of interest and deploy these data in other systems. Openness and data portability are critical to ensuring that Open Context supports innovative research applications for the long term.