Goportis Conference 2013: Non-Textual Information: Strategy and Innovation Beyond Text

The Goportis Conference 2013 on ‘Non-Textual Information: Strategy and Innovation Beyond Text’ took place on 18-19 March 2013 in Hannover.  A programme with abstracts and speaker biographies is available at  This gives an idea of the number and variety of speakers: some of my highlights are outlined here, and you can get more narrative on Twitter by searching for the event’s tag, #goportis13.

The event began with a keynote by Martin Hofmann-Apitius of the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing (SCAI), who passionately argued for better access to scientific data for the good of science, particularly for public health.  This need is demonstrated by the rapidly-increasing occurence of Alzheimer’s disease in the west – to tackle such huge challenges, we urgently need to be able to undertake text mining and data mining to produce useful, computable chemical information for science to advance.  He particularly identified the current publishing model in research as ‘problematic’, describing the existing business model of many publishers as something that ‘interferes with the advancement of science’.  Martin is convinced that the days of the static publication are numbered, and in the future scientific communication will be done by knowledge models and other non-static means.

Jan Brase, Datacite then gave an overview of the Datacite work in promoting citability of data.  Jan believes that libraries should open their catalogues to any kind of information. The catalogue has classically been a window onto the holdings, but now the library doesn’t have to hold all the records they present.  In the future, Brase predicted, libraries will function more as a portal in a net of trusted providers, drawing on their long heritage in bringing scientific information to the public, their track record of persisting longer than projects and other departments of the institution, and their reputation as very trustworthy organisations.  Yet more love for the libraries!  Now all we need to do is fund them to take on these new responsibilities and acquire the concomitant skills…

Todd Carpenter, American National Information Standard Organisation (NISO) stirred up some debate by suggesting that perhaps we need to be more discriminating in selecting different metadata structures for different things.  He referred to the use of DOIs ‘for just about everything: books, articles, data, content negotiation and licensing.  We don’t apply an ISBN to people.  We don’t use taxpayer numbers for addresses.  Are we pushing the DOI beyond its limits?  Should we call what Datacite is doing with DOIs something different than, for example, what the CrossRef community is doing?’

Todd also outlined a project undertaken by NISO and the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services (NFAIS) which looks at the current publication of supplementary materials and how publishers are dealing with these.  What is critical / supplemental / ancillary to understanding?  Todd made a straightforward but fundamental point that the form of content does not designate whether something integral to understanding, e.g. just because one part of the research publication is a paper and one is a video, that doesn’t necesarily mean that the paper should be regarded as the main publication and the video as supplementary material – it could quite easily be the other way around, and this chimed with one of the trends of today’s event, namely that publishing needs to change from the static paper to more flexible, interactive and repurposable models.

Jill Cousins, Europeana Foundation / The European Library moved focus slightly more onto humanities and arts research with her update on work at Europeana, the access provided to 27m resources (which are not held by Europeana itself; rather, they provide the metadata to enhance findability) and the challenges of getting the metadata for 27m objects across Europe to be available under CC0 licensing!  Jill was also keen to discuss new initiative Europeana Research which will soon be available at

Creative Commons licensing is important to the work of the Jisc MRD projects, particularly those making training resources for use and re-use.  It was useful to hear Puneet Kishor of Creative Commons reporting on the new license suite, 4.0, and the differences between this and the previous suite of licences including licensing of European sui generis database rights (SGDR).  The new 4.0 licences are to be launched in the second quarter of 2013 – right now, though, you can contribute your thoughts at -and Puneet particularly wants to hear from scientists.

Brian McMahon of the International Union of Crystallography is, I think, quite chuffed that crystallographers are generally considered to be really, really good at research data managementnot least by Richard Kidd of the Royal Society of Chemistry – but feels it is still important for those in the field to keep their skills current and contributing to the advancement of science.  This was another talk presenting ways to extend the functionality and interactivity of the scientific publication, as Brian outlined the publishing work by IUCR and ways of modelling crystal structures as non-textual information in publications.

I had the last talk of the event, presenting the work of the Jisc Managing Research Data programme.  It’s a real challenge trying to communicate the mass and the variety of the activities that the JiscMRD projects are tackling, and to delineate the difference between the programme-level work and that of the individual projects, but I did my best.  I described the landscape and drivers which stimulate programme activity, the structure of the programme, some lessons learned from phase 1 which have been applied to phase 2, and the fearlessness of projects in tackling tricky aims such as improving institution-specific awareness, devising and delivering discipline-specific training, analysing and enhancing current RDM infrastructure provision, implementing or extending data repository provision, attempting to cost data loss, and generally sorting out the world.  I also described various key resources provided by MRD projects and the Digital Curation Centre.  I then had the pleasure of Goportis’s Klaus Tochtermann describing UK RDM activity as ‘the most advanced in Europe’ – so I think we’re doing something right!

You’ll see from the Twitter feed (#goportis13) that there were many more talks which discussed particular applications of non-textual information in a range of disciplines – far more information than can sit comfortably in a blog post, so please have a look.  The slide decks will be available from the conference website in the near future – I’ll tweet when I’m aware of this having happened.

Do you agree we need new publishing paradigms?  How could your discipline benefit from non-textual research communication?  Want to know more about any of the projects mentioned above?  Let us know in the comments!


E: laura.molloy AT


2 thoughts on “Goportis Conference 2013: Non-Textual Information: Strategy and Innovation Beyond Text

  1. ML@TIB

    First off – thanks for presenting at the Goportis conference! You gave some great insights and I think you did an excellent job pulling all the prior topics together.
    Two quick questions I didn’t have a chance to ask during the event: regarding the training activities, how to you see the balance between “general RDM training” and “subject specific RDM training”?
    And regarding the metadata schema you talked about (RDE) is it being accepted by different subjects alike? Why was there a need to create this new profile?

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