Two ischool graduate students undertook placements at Oxford University this summer. The placements were part of the Oxford-Illinois Digital Library Placement Program, an ongoing collaboration between Illinois and Oxford. Master's student Anna Oates and doctoral student Jessica (Yi-Yun) Cheng spent six weeks at the Bodleian Libraries and the Oxford e-Research Centre, respectively.
The program, a collaboration between the iSchool, Oxford e-Research Centre, and Bodleian Libraries, is now in its fourth year. Kevin Page, the Centre's coordinator for the program, and Michael Popham, head of Digital Collections & Preservation Services and Bodleian's coordinator for the program, work closely with the students on specific projects during their placements, which include attendance at the popular Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School.
Oates's project focused on student theses in Oxford's Institutional Repository and the challenges faced in meeting the International Organization of Standardization or ISO 19005 Standard for document management. 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 in ORA are student theses, often saved as PDF/A (Portable Document Format-Archival) files, which is the ISO 19005 standard for long-term preservation of electronic documents.
"I am deeply grateful for every moment spent with both folks at [Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services] and the Oxford e-Research Centre," Oates said of her experience. "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 Oates and Cheng will be submitting abstracts for poster presentations at iConference 2018. In addition, Oates plans to submit an abstract for a presentation at the International Digital Curation Conference 2018 and extend her research project by completing a master's thesis at Illinois.
Cheng's area of work at the Centre was in digital musicology. The Centre's musicologists are studying how features characterizing the musical audio signal can approximate semantic descriptions of interest to musicologists. Specifically, they are exploring the use of Audio Feature Ontology (AFO), a descriptive framework for expressing different conceptualizations of, and designing linked data formats for, content-based audio features. Cheng'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.
Cheng said 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 had 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 were all really supportive and kind. I will definitely miss everything there."
Cheng will enter the second year of her PhD studies this fall, resuming her research on taxonomy alignment of the Euler project. She also hopes to follow up on the MIR and feature shape research with the e-Research Centre team.
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