Phase III Executive Summary

Interest in the annotation of Web-accessible scholarly content continues to grow. As a practice core to scholarship and pedagogy across a broad and diverse spectrum of disciplines it is only natural that scholars and students are anxious to translate the practice of pen and paper annotation into the digital realm as the regularity of their interactions with digital content grows. The outcomes of the Open Annotation Collaboration (OAC) Phase I and Phase II projects has confirmed that scholarly annotations of Web-accessible content can be modeled in a Web and Resource centric way that helps ensure interoperability and is compatible with the Semantic Web and linked open data views of today's World Wide Web. The work of OAC Phase I and II has lowered the technical barriers for building more sophisticated and powerful annotation tools and services and set the stage for the emergence of an environment that allows leveraging annotations across the boundaries of annotation clients, annotation servers, and content collections. In some disciplines, notably those concerned with the study of digitized manuscripts of various kinds, the annotation demonstration experiments of OAC Phase II have already had significant impact. The Open Annotation data model and vocabulary for describing annotations has encouraged discussions about the use of annotation to support collaborative curation of digitized texts and associated metadata and has provided a foundation for powerful annotation clients and services that are being integrated into multiple larger, ongoing projects and initiatives. As another outcome of OAC Phase II, a new World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Open Annotation Community Group has been formed as a focal point for a nascent community of practice centered around scholarly annotation of Web resources. However, a "build it and they will come" approach is not adequate to realize the full potential of the strong foundation laid in OAC Phases I and II.

To cement, preserve and further establish the foundation created, and to achieve broad adoption and sustainability of the outcomes of OAC Phases I and II, a proactive and systematic effort to expand basic infrastructure and solidify and encourage the broad adoption of the Open Annotation data model and ontology is required. In the year following the completion of the OAC Phase II project, as the results from that work are further disseminated and receive increasing attention, it is crucial that a presence by the OAC be maintained. Accordingly, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in collaboration with the University of Maryland and the University of Queensland, and supported by the Los Alamos National Laboratory propose a third and final phase of the OAC project and request a grant for this purpose of $169,394. These resources will allow us to instantiate three general-purpose, elements of infrastructure, filling gaps that will not be filled by the projects and initiatives currently making use of and planning to extend OAC Phase II work. These resources also will allow us to engage more stakeholders, encourage broader adoption of the Open Annotation data model and ontology by more projects spanning more disciplines, and more fully establish a self-sustaining community of practice around Web-based scholarly annotation and the Open Annotation specifications and guidelines.

In concrete terms, we propose to develop community and engage stakeholders through:

  • Three formal public rollouts of the Open Annotation data model and ontology,
  • Outreach through direct contact with influential projects and initiatives having an interest in scholarly annotation and through presentation of workshops and tutorials,
  • Encouraging community development through strategic and coordinated leadership of the W3C Open Annotation Community Group.

Simultaneously, to encourage and facilitate developer adoption, we propose to put in place three elements of basic infrastructure:

  • An Open Annotation validation service with advanced discovery and browse features; this will provide developers with a target for testing annotation clients and applications,
  • A shared registry of OAC related tools, services, and exemplar projects; this will facilitate shared development and the exchange of information about the protocols and help would-be developers find exemplars they can adapt,
  • A general-purpose video annotation plugin for Drupal-based applications (extending a more specialized video annotation client developed during OAC Phase II); this plugin will serve both as an exemplar application and as a source for easily adaptable code. (Sustainable exemplars of annotation clients for digitized texts, manuscripts, and maps are among the outcomes of OAC Phase II, but the specialized video client developed during Phase II is less easily adaptable and less likely at this stage to be sustained without some additional work.)

In carrying out these tasks we will leverage the elements of collaboration that have worked so well during OAC Phase I and OAC Phase II. A strength of these two earlier projects was clearly defined and delineated roles and responsibilities for Collaboration leadership and participants. Roles and responsibilities are now well established, and the leadership of the Collaboration has demonstrated an agility and an ability to work well together. With only one exception, the OAC Phase III Principal Investigators (PIs) and co-PIs are a subset of the OAC Phase II PIs and co-PIs. Our roles in OAC Phase III follow naturally from responsibilities in Phase II. This portends the continuation of an efficient and productive collaboration. The past and anticipated future success of the Collaboration is tied closely to both the breadth and depth of expertise embodied in the leadership of the Collaboration.

Collectively our coordinated work on these tasks will result in a strong continuing and nurturing presence in the immediate aftermath of OAC Phase II, will extend the reach and visibility of the Open Annotation data model and ontology, and will encourage the development of Open Annotation based applications and services. This will maximize the benefits realized from OAC Phases I and II and better establish the Open Annotation shared, interoperable model of Web resource scholarly annotation as the go-to annotation specification for developers of digital libraries and advanced scholarly communication applications.

See the Phase III Proposal as presented to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in June of 2012.