OIDLPP placement students reflect on their experiences at the Centre and Bodleian Libraries

OIDLPP placement students reflect on their experiences at the Centre and Bodleian Libraries

Two graduate students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently undertook placements at the Centre and the Bodleian Libraries.

The placement programme is a collaboration between the Centre, Bodleian Libraries and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Information Sciences, and is now in its fourth year.

Masters candidate Anna Oates and Doctoral student Jessica (Yi-Yun) Cheng spent six weeks on placement earlier this year at the Bodleian Libraries and the Oxford e-Research Centre respectively. Dr Kevin Page, the Centre's co-ordinator for the programme, and Michael Popham, Head of Digital Collections & Preservation Services at Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services, worked closely with the students on specific projects during their six-week placements.

The placements also included attendance at the popular Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School (DHOxSS), convened by the Centre's Professor of e-Research David De Roure, Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship at the Bodleian Libraries, Pip Willcox, and DHOxSS founder James Cummings (now at Newcastle University).

Anna's project focused on student theses in Oxford's Institutional Repository, and the challenges faced in meeting the ISO 19005 Standard. During her placement she worked with the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA), which hosts rich collections created by student and faculty researchers at the University of Oxford. Among the collections ingested into ORA are student theses, often as PDF/A (Portable Document Format-Archival) files, which was established by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) as the ISO 19005 standard for long-term preservation of electronic documents.

While the ISO requirements of a well-formed document ensure sustainability and easy recovery of content, the standard restricts some document features, such as non-Latin glyphs (which are found across the ORA theses collection) from being incorporated into a well-formed PDF/A.

Anna says of her placement, "I am deeply grateful for every moment spent with both folks at the BDLSS and the Oxford e-Research Centre. Each day, my conceptions of information science, particularly regarding digital preservation, were challenged, which speaks to the wonderful environment that is Oxford. Those moments that kept me on my toes, as well as the connections I made as part of the placement will send me back to Illinois with better direction and understanding of the value of my work."

Both Jessica and Anna will be submitting abstracts to present a poster at iConference 2018. In addition, Anna plans to submit an abstract for a presentation at the International Digital Curation Conference 2018 and extend her research project at Illinois by completing a Master's thesis. "These possibilities again speak to the nature of the placement—always stimulating and an opportunity that will impact me always."

Jessica's area of work at the Centre, supervised by Dr David Weigl, was in digital musicology. The Centre's musicologists are looking at how features characterising the musical audio signal can approximate semantic descriptions of interest to musicologists, but understanding and making good use of these features is not straightforward.

The Audio Feature Ontology (AFO) provides a descriptive framework for expressing different conceptualisations of, and designing linked data formats for, content-based audio features. The team are exploring the use of the operation sequences of the AFO and its vocabulary to inform analytical workflows on feature data exhibiting different types of processes. Jessica's work explored the feasibility of feature shape-based filtering and querying within the Internet Live Music Archive, a large collection of audio recordings. She further investigated the applicability of such an approach within the domain of textual information.

Jessica says of her time at the Centre, "I think I would describe it as a 'once-in-a-lifetime research experience' in beautiful Oxford! Getting to know about digital musicology and music information retrieval (MIR), which I have no knowledge of prior to the placement program, was very interesting! Also, it was particularly useful for me to get some hands-on experience with SPARQL queries and other Linked Data related tools. The people in the Centre that I have met and worked with were all really supportive and kind. I will definitely miss everything there!".

Jessica will now embark on her 2nd year of PhD student life in Illinois this autumn, resuming her research on taxonomy alignment of the Euler project. She adds, "I will hopefully get to follow up on the MIR and feature shape research with the e-Research Centre team as well!".