About Semantic CorA

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The project "A Virtual Research Environment for the History of Education based on a Semantic Wiki Technology (Semantic MediaWiki for Collaborative Corpora Analysis: Semantic CorA)" targets the development of a virtual research environment (vre) based on Semantic MediaWiki (SMW) for the collaborative analysis of comprehensive digitised data corpora and an exemplary sustained nesting in the professional community of the history of education. Moreover, the project aims to provide a sharing of the researchers' enrichments and analysis and in the long term, an infrastructural distribution of Semantic CorA to other disciplines. It is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since Januar 2011.

Owing to its concrete need for collaborative means of analysing pedagogical reference books, the domain of history of education offers a good starting point for exemplarily realizing a virtual research environment. Well-established co-operations exists in the community of researchers, librarians and technicians. Such collaborations have, for instance, led to several digitization projects and an amount of research data for this domain. Semantic CorA permits an integration of digitised documents along with their bibliographic metadata, collaboratively analysis in a quantitative and qualitative sense, and connection of linked data with practical research in the digital humanities. Libraries will be enabled to integrate the products from their digitization projects (primary data) into professional discourse and generate added scientific value by semantically linking digitized ressources with analytic results – as well as enabling integrated archiving.

Semantic CorA links up to concrete research projects in the history of education, aimed at discourse and field analyses of pedagogical reference works. Dictionaries from Scripta Paedagogica Online (SPO) (1774-1942), hosted by the Library of the History for Education at the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), are integrated. SPO indexes references to relevant pedagogical works at the level of articles, rendering them accessible online as image files. The corpus started with 25 lexica and a total amount of nearly 22,000 articles. The researchers extended the corpus to more than 80.

An participative design of the vre is conducted by consulting the researchers and empowering them to take an active part in development. Therenye, the development is adjusted to the research process and an agile computing, a step-by-step open-source publishing, is realized.


Interrelation between communities at the design of Semantic CorA

Semantic CorA focuses on the social sciences and humanities and establishes vres in the research community of historical research in education. Collaborative work should be possible in the maintenance and analysis of research data while special attention is paid to the re-use of research data at the beginning and the end of the research processes. Semantic CorA therefore relies on Semantic MediaWiki, which ensures a certain degree of interoperability of newly data due to RDF export features (and other export formats like csv, json,..).

Our project aims at connecting three different communities which are:

  • researchers in the social sciences and humanities
  • developers
  • digital libraries.

Semantic MediaWiki

Semantic Media Wiki was chosen as a platform because it is a lightweight system with a broad community of developers and users. As its development is open source, the outcomes from our project can easily be reused and adapted by others. As Semantic CorA does not aim at developing a (technically) new vre, and the basic modular system architecture of MediaWiki (i.e. Semantic MediaWiki) can be adapted to needs. Semantic CorA targets at the management and analysis of large corpora but clearly does not claim to be a large scale solution for the totality of research fields in the humanities and social sciences. The RDF support of Semantic MediaWiki with its interoperability is a fundamental criterion which ensures reuse of new data in other rdf-based systems. This interoperability at the data level allows for thinking at a smaller scale and more networked environment in the context of vres.

Wikis are well-known as a tool for collaborative work in the web. Even given some critical usabilty issues e.g. regarding the syntax, the use of wiki-based systems draws on fundamental user experiences. Although editing in the wiki-based system is less trivial for techical laypersons than often assumed, they are generally familar with the concept. A positive effect of Semantic CorA was that after a while the users were able to construct own queries and templates to gain more information from and interact more flexibly with their data. This development is clearly due to the openness of the wiki system which is highly adjustable compared to other large vres.


This project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) entitled: "Entwicklung einer Virtuellen Forschungsumgebung für die Historische Bildungsforschung mit Semantischer Wiki-Technologie - Semantic MediaWiki for Collaborative Corpora Analysis (INST 367/5-1, INST 5580/1-1 and RI 803/10-2, STU 170/21-2, HO 2134/7-2)" in the domain of Scientific Library Services and Information Systems (LIS). It is realized in a cooperation of the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Research Library for the History of Education (BBF), and the Georg-August-University Göttingen.

Project Team

  • Management of the entire project (DIPF): Marc Rittberger
  • Project co-ordination (DIPF): Christoph Schindler
  • Project partner at the AIFB: Rudi Studer, Basil Ell, (Denny Vrandečić, Cornelia Veja)
  • Project partner at the IfE: Klaus-Peter Horn, Anne Hild, Anna Stisser

We are grateful that Jürgen Jaeschke, Benedikt Kämpgen, Martin Wünsch, Sabine Liebmann, Stefan Cramme, and Gwen Schulte for actively supporting our endeavor.