Linguistic and Disciplinary Barriers to Heritage Science Data Interoperability

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04 Aug 2020

Linguistic and Disciplinary Barriers to Heritage Science Data Interoperability

Submitted by marco galeotti

Meeting objectives: 

The present condition of the heritage science digital ecosystem is still fragmented due to the high number of different disciplines involved in the field and the lack of a Data Interoperability Framework. Moreover, the use of English by practitioners is not as common in this field as in other scientific disciplines, worsening the impact of the absence of cross-language interoperability tools. As a consequence, findability and re-use of research data in heritage science are often limited.

In this respect, the purpose of this BoF session is to explore how the heritage science community can take advantage of the work already done by the RDA and other communities (i.e High Energy, Astrophysics, Bioinformatics and Crystallography communities) shaping its contribution towards a common Semantic Framework and allowing true multi-disciplinary and multilingual data interoperability.

In particular, the session could help to set up a concrete roadmap towards a Semantic Framework, by clarifying the state of the art for the Heritage Science domain and foster the discussion around the following topics: interoperability research purpose and research questions; state of schemas and ontologies used in the domain; addressing multi-domain and multilingual interoperability (key concepts and resources); heritage science alignment with a global multi-domain scenario, trying to explore examples which have already been proven to work well in other communities, towards EOSC and beyond.

Indeed, several projects and initiatives worldwide in the heritage science sector like IPERION CH, DISCO, ARCHES, ARIADNE, PARTHENOS, and the EU RIs cluster SSHOC have already paved the way towards the use of common tools as a standard ontology for metadata (CIDOC CRM ISO standard 21127:2006), a framework for image-based resources (IIIF) and tools like ConservationSpace and ResearchSpace. However, data interoperability in heritage science requires even more than this. 

To fully understand the complexity of the data interoperability in heritage science, many aspects must be considered. In fact, not only the processed or interpreted analysis results but also the extended sets of data and metadata, required to define and describe the objects and the context in which the analysis has been carried out, should be properly sharable. In this respect, the primary problems are, on the one hand, the additional information is sometimes written in different (local) languages, on the other hand, often the practitioners are not able to search for data using the English language, and this causes a radical slowing down on the collaboration in heritage science research.

As a matter of fact, COVID19 pandemic, in terms of collaborative research, has taught us exactly that metadata standards and multilingual vocabulary are essential to make science happen on a global scale, otherwise, collaborative research is a chimaera. For this reason, EOSC Secretariat recently launched a co-creation activity called Semantic Mapping Framework project (SeMaF).

Accordingly, since all-around specialized multilingual vocabularies and multilingual thesauri in the heritage science field are still missing, the community has targeted as the next essential goal, the development of such a tool building on the work already done in specific sectors as arts and architecture, archaeology, and so on, especially by the Getty Foundation, and aligning this effort with the RDA activity, to foster multi-domain interoperability towards EOSC.


The objectives of the meeting are the following:

  1. Presentation of E-RIHS and open issues in Heritage Science: 

    1. Interoperability Research Purpose and Research Questions;

    2. State of Schemas and Ontologies used in the Domain (availability, use, documentation, etc.)

  2. Identification of specific interest groups focused on vocabulary, thesaurus, metadata, protocols and processes, related to Cultural Heritage

  3. Propose a strategy to foster a multilingual data interoperability in Heritage Science considering the experience of RDA partners and interest groups:

    1. Addressing multi-domain interoperability starting from heritage science: Key concepts/resources;

    2. Mapping with other activities (SeMaF)

  4. Increase the impact of European Open Science Cloud in Heritage Science from a globalization approach:

    1. Heritage science alignment with a global multi-domain scenario: EOSC and beyond

Meeting agenda: 


Collaborative Notes Link:


  1. Welcome and introductions, Sorin Hermon (The Cyprus Institute)

  2. IT barriers to heritage science data interoperability, Karla Balzuweit (ANTECIPA)

  3. Social Sciences and Humanities Open Cloud: CLARIN’s Vocabulary initiative and its challenge, Iulianna Van der Lek, Daan Broeder (CLARIN ERIC)

  4. More than Two Cultures: The Case for Multilingual Data for Material Art History, Renato Gonzalez (UNAM)

  5. Disciplinary barriers to heritage data interoperability, Wim Fremout (KIK-IRPA)

  6. Interoperability: a three-legged stool, Franco Niccolucci (VAST-LAB, PIN)

  7. How ERIHS plans to cope with these barriers towards DIGILAB, Sorin Hermon (The Cyprus Institute)

  8. Discussion


Type of Meeting: 
Working meeting
Short introduction describing any previous activities: 

EU, US and LAC initiatives are working jointly to foster interoperability in heritage science research data to facilitate international collaboration in the field and meet the challenge of a global movement for the development of a global heritage science research force. The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS), which is aiming to support research on heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management is working to reach that objective fostering FAIR principles in heritage science data production and retention by design.

As part of this commitment, E-RIHS ( is one of the four pilot actions foreseen in the H2020 project EU-CELAC ResInfra in which EU and LAC RIs are strengthening the strategic bi-regional partnership, which was launched in 1999, with the objective to design specific variable geometry instruments for co-funding RIs of common interest and to design further measures to facilitate the construction of the EU-LAC Common Research Area.

The European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS) has been accepted into the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure (ESFRI) 2016 Roadmap, with the goal of spurring social and cultural innovation. E-RIHS PP (Preparation Phase) partnership joins 16 countries (15 EU Member States plus Israel), 2 ERICs and 3 institutions representing scientific communities. E-RIHS PP also counts 6 observers and involves over 100 heritage science institutions worldwide. Amongst its services, E-RIHS is providing access, also in remote mode, to a wide range of cutting-edge scientific infrastructures, methodologies, data and tools and it is also providing training activities such as workshops, summer schools and webinars. In addition, E-RIHS is already present in US and LAC with the intent to expand the infrastructure at a global level, and in collaboration with RDA, we hope to facilitate that process raising awareness on the importance of a global network to preserve our heritage.

In addition, this BoF session would also build upon the work that has been done as a result of the BoF Session “Strategies for opening data in Heritage Science” held in the RDA 9th Plenary by E-RIHS community. 

E-RIHS is also involved in the activities of the GEDE-RDA (, together with most of the other EU research infrastructures. Cooperating within the GEDE-RDA discussion forum, E-RIHS is fostering the approach of capitalizing on the existing solution to attain the widest possible interoperability across disciplines. This way, research communities will have access to distributed infrastructures in a coordinated and streamlined way, in order to advance their heritage science research through an integrated approach. E-RIHS is also among the promoters and partners of the SeMaF co-creation project (EOSC Secretariat co-creation activities), coordinated by CLARIN ERIC. 

Furthermore, the collaboration with relevant actors in the ESFRI landscape, such as CESSDA ERIC (Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives,, CLARIN ERIC (Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure,, ARIADNE (a data infrastructure serving the archaeological community worldwide, and DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and the Humanities, is helping E-RIHS to reach a central role worldwide in making the voice of heritage science community heard loud when underscores the significance of the heritage science in shaping the local and global, individual and collective identity of each human being.

Within the LAC community, efforts are being made to spur a more concrete and long term collaboration between members involved in Cultural Heritage. In particular, in Brasil ANTECIPA (Associação Nacional de Pesquisa em Tecnologia e Ciência do Patrimônio, is working to congregate different partners in cultural heritage and trying to strengthen both the sense of community, involving university undergraduate and graduate conservation students, conservation researchers, teachers, scientists, engineers, conservators on private practice, academic training courses, all within a laboratory system network around cultural heritage. Most of the laboratories are based at the Federal Universities over Brazil. In North and South America, ANTECIPA is also keeping a sound collaboration with conservation research and training University Centers in Argentina and Peru, which allows envisaging the integration of these countries within the coming year. In the second half of the month of November this year, ANTECIPA will hold its Biennial Congress.

In the case of Mexico, the node is headed by the National Laboratory of Sciences for Research and Conservation for Cultural Heritage (LANCIC). LANCIC is a network of five consolidated groups of research on material analysis of cultural heritage created in 2014 ( Three groups belong to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM), another is based on the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Nucleares and the fifth group is settled in the Yucatan peninsula at the Universidad Autónoma de Campeche. LANCIC tasks include the use of cutting-edge infrastructures, specialized human resources training and support to researchers and students, specialized services for cultural heritage material studies and scientific development and innovation on material science for conservation. LANCIC is also the link to the Mexican National Network of Laboratories for Study of Cultural Heritage in Mexico. This network has 27 national Institutions, more than 40 laboratories, 3 national laboratories, 2 groups from Mexican conservation schools and 7 foreign laboratories (about 320 people).



BoF chair serving as contact person: 
Meeting presenters: 
Sorin Hermon, Franco Niccolucci, Karla Balzuweit, Wim Fermont, Iulianna van der Lek, Renato Gonzalez Mello, Marco Galeotti