What is linked data?

The fact that data comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes has already been blogged about, but what is the concern about adding data into online journals? after all, printed journals have included data in the shape of graphs or tables for a great many years. The problem is now that the journal article and its corresponding data is no longer in the flat two dimensional world of a piece of paper, but is part of the multi-dimensional world of the internet, the data is linked to something else. Linked data, according to Bizer, Heath and Berners-Lee (http;//linkeddatte.org/docs/ijwis-special-issue) is the method by which data is connected, structured and published on the web resulting in a “web of data”. Linked data “refers to data published on the web in such a way that it is machine readable, its meaning is is explicitly defined, it is linked to other external data sets and can in turn be linked to from external data sets”.

Before the data is published and linked, it has to be put somewhere. Most of our research participants said that they store their data in a personal storage system, either their own work or home computer, or on a portable storage device. While, of course, such spaces may be linked to the internet, it is rather like keeping the data in a filing cabinet, although anyone can go and find the data, they have to search very hard or ask the data keeper to give it to them. Data therefore has to be uploaded to a space that is openly accessible, which could be a university repository, a subject repository, a web page, or even onto the publishers own servers.

Again this is not as simple as it seems, first you have to choose your repository and ensure that it will accept your sort of data. Once safely held in a repository, the data must be permanently linked and archived. As digital repositories are relatively new things, there is the question of what if the repository you have chosen has to close? where will the data go? If the data is uploaded onto the publisher’s server, do they have the capacity to hold all the data for all the journals that they publish, as well as all the articles? Suddenly the storage needs of a single article can become top heavy. At the moment there are not very clear answers to these concerns, therefore there needs to be some guidelines and methods of best practice resolved before all data can be truly linked.

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