THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

3 posts from May 2017

31 May 2017

Series of public Data Debates delivered in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute

Data has become part of our everyday lives and we are increasingly getting used to dealing with consequences of our personal data being accessible to a myriad of different services, from banking to social media.  Some uses of data, however, remain more complex and more difficult to understand for the majority of us, possibly nowhere more so than when it comes to our health.  Will more data about us improve our healthcare in the future?  Or does it compromise our privacy in a new way that we hardly understand?

As a part of the British Library’s collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute we are organising a series of Data Debates over the coming months.  In our next event on 12 June 2017, we are discussing the complex issue of data in healthcare.

Introducing this event, Angelo Napolano from the Alan Turing Institute writes:

Can we safeguard our privacy while using health data for better medical care?

It is clear that data-driven technology is transforming medical knowledge and practice.

Innovation is taking place on many levels, for example devices such as fitbits are helping to monitor heart rates, blood sugar levels and sleep cycles, and IBM’s A.I. system, Watson, is giving scientists insight into how genes affect our health.

Data is also being analysed to generate new medical findings, for example scientists at The Alan Turing Institute, are collaborating with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, to investigate how to apply machine learning techniques to their data to help improve healthcare for people living with the life-limiting condition.

However, despite the benefits for medical research, incidents like the care data breach and subsequent fears around protecting personal information mean there is legitimate public concern around how to share health data safely.

In a special Data Debate event, we will ask a panel of experts:

  • How can we balance the potential benefits of using personal data for healthcare research, with the ethical dilemmas they provoke?
  • Should we allow companies to use medical data for technological developments and interventions that may improve our lifestyles, or does this contravene our privacy rights?
  • How can we ensure a future in which health care data is used in a way which ensures the public trust?
  • Can we safeguard our privacy and regulate the use of health data while making medical practice and discovery more effective through technology developments?

Speakers include:

Luciano Floridi, Turing Faculty Fellow and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute. His research areas are the philosophy of Information, information and computer ethics, and the philosophy of technology.

Sabina Leonelli, Co-Director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis), where she leads the Data Studies research strand. Currently, Sabina focuses on the philosophy, history and sociology of data-intensive science, especially the research processes, scientific outputs and social embedding of Open Science, Open Data and Big Data.

Natalie Banner, Policy Adviser at the Wellcome Trust. Her focus is on how to get the best use and value from health and genetic data while ensuring it is well protected, responsibly managed and ethically used, both in the UK and internationally.

The panel will be chaired by writer and broadcaster Timandra Harkness. Timandra presents BBC Radio 4 series, FutureProofing and has presented the documentaries, Data, Data Everywhere, Personality Politics & The Singularity. Her recent book Big Data: Does Size Matter? has been published by Bloomsbury Sigma in June 2016. She is Visiting Fellow in Big Data, Information Rights and Public Engagement within the Centre for Information Rights at the University of Winchester.

Data Debates are a collaboration between The Alan Turing Institute and The British Library, aiming to stimulate discussion on issues surrounding big data, its potential uses, and its implications for society.

You can book your place from: https://www.bl.uk/events/health-data-fit-or-failing

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-05-31/3f31089e-dbb9-4046-9a86-da78013e279d.png

16 May 2017

Michael Takeo Magruder @ Gazelli Art House

Posted by Mahendra Mahey (Manager of BL Labs) on behalf of Michael Takeo Magruder (BL Labs Artist/Researcher in Residence).

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Michael Takeo Marguder's Gazell.io works

Earlier this year I was invited by Gazelli Art House to be a digital artist-in-residence on their online platform Gazell.io. After a series of conversations with Gazelli’s director, Mila Askarova, we decided it would be a perfect opportunity to broker a partnership with British Library Labs and use the occasion to publish some of the work-in-progress ideas from my Imaginary Cities project at the British Library.

Given Gazelli’s growing interest in and reputation for exhibiting virtual reality (VR) art, we chose to launch my March showcase with A New Jerusalem since it was in many ways the inspiration for the Imaginary Cities concept.

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A New Jerusalem by Michael Takeo Magruder

During the second half of my Gazell.io residency I began publishing various aesthetic-code studies that had been created for the Imaginary Cities project. I was also invited by Gazelli to hold a private sharing event at their London gallery in Mayfair to showcase some of the project’s physical experiments and outcomes. The evening was organised by Gazelli’s Artist Liaison, Victoria Al-Din, and brought together colleagues from the British Library, art curators from leading cultural institutions and academics connected to media art practice. It was a wonderful event, and it was incredibly useful to be able to present my ideas and the resulting artistic-technical prototypes to a group with such a deep and broad range of expertise. 


Sharing works in progress for the Imaginary Cities project at Gazelli Art House, London. 30th March 2017

03 May 2017

How can a turtle and the BBC connect learners with literature?

Illustration of a youth on a turtle
Image from 'When Life is Young: a collection of verse for boys and girls'. This turtle is ace but we used a different kind of turtle for our project.

Digital Curator Mia Ridge explains how and why we used linked open data to help more people find British Library content.

Despite the picture, it's not a real turtle (sorry to disappoint you). We've used a file format called 'Turtle' (.ttl) to help make articles and collections in Library's Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians easier for teachers to find.

We did this to make content available to the BBC's Research and Education Space (RES) Project. RES helps make public archives easier to find and use in education and teaching. It collects and organises the digital collections of libraries, museums, broadcasters and galleries so that developers can create educational products to connect learners to information and collections.

We were keen to join the RES project and help learners discover our collections and knowledge, but first we had to find the right content and figure out some technical issues. This post gives an overview of how we did it.

Finding the right content

Our collections are vast. Knowing where to start can be daunting. Which section of our website would be most immediately useful for the RES project's goals and audiences?

After looking over our online material, the Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians site seemed like a perfect match. Discovering Literature is a free educational resource that puts manuscript and printed collection items in historical, cultural and political context. The Romantics and Victorians site includes thousands of collection items, hundreds of articles, films, teachers’ notes and more to help make collection items more accessible, so it was a great place to start.

Using linked open data to make information easier to find

Created with support from Jisc and Learning on Screen, the RES platform collects data published as linked open data, which at its simplest means data that is structured and linked to vocabularies that help define the meaning of terms used.

For example, we might include a bit of technical information to unambiguously identify Elizabeth Barrett Browning as the author of the published volumes of poetry or as the writer of a letter. Applying a shared identifier helps connect our resources to information about Barrett Browning in other collections. A teacher preparing a lesson plan can be sure that the RES resources they include are accurate and authoritative articles that'll help their students understand Barrett Browning and other writers.

How did we do it?

There were three main stages in creating linked open data for the RES project, involving staff across the Library, at an external agency and at the BBC. Short, weekly conference calls kept things moving by making us accountable for progress between calls.

First, we had to work out which vocabularies to apply to describe people, the works they created, the collection items used to illustrate articles, the articles themselves, etc. Some terms, like the names of published authors, already exist in other vocabularies so we could just link to them. Others, like the 'genre' or 'literary period' used to describe a work, were particular to the Library. We posted work in progress online so that other people could review and comment on our work.

Once the mappings were agreed, the technical work of updating code used in the content management system so that special pages containing the data could be published as 'Turtle'-formatted files was carried out.  Licence information was included to meet the RES Project requirements.

Finally, the work was tested on a staging server, then checked again by the RES team once the changes had gone live on our website. If you're curious about the underlying linked data technologies, the BBC's guide to the Research & Education Space for contributors and developers has all the details.

Looking to the future

We learned a lot of practical and technical lessons that we hope to apply to future projects. For a start, there are more Discovering Literature sites, and others using a similar web architecture. If you're interested in other perspectives, the RES Project have collected different experiences on their platform, process and progress on their blog. I'm looking forward to seeing how the linked open data we created is used to connect learners to our collections and knowledge.