Is LinkedData really more important than the Large Hadron Collider?

I’ve just read Daniel‘s recent post entitled Linked Data is more important than the Large Hadron Collider. Like Daniel I am also a passionate advocate of Linked Data and am currently working on deploying number of real world Linked Data applications along with my colleagues at Talis. Sadly though I have to confess that I found myself cringing whilst reading his piece.

Like many other scientific endeavors the Large Hadron Collider project attempts to provide scientists with huge quantities of data that might help them answer questions about the origin of the universe. As a project in it’s own right it is massive, combining the efforts of thousands of scientists from around the world.

To dismiss it, as Daniel has done, because it’s “too expensive”, or because “it wont find the cure to cancer, or HIV”, or question its relevance because “we’re still going to be here whether or not the Large Hadron Collider was successful”, is bad enough but to then use those rather specious arguments as a prop to advocate Linked Data is absolutely ridiculous.

Worse is that it overlooks the rather obvious rebuttal which is that Linked Data wont cure cancer, it wont cure HIV, and we’ll all still be here whether we have Linked Data or not :-). Even more importantly though … should anyone in our Community and by that I mean the Linked Data community really be questioning the value of any project that’s sole purpose it generate data? To then say this …

Just imagine a world where you can easily browse through the history of the atom, and then delve into the science found on the atom, and then go deeper into the subatomic level, and then browse back out into the historic realm, finding out about experiments that happened and whether it had any impact on society.

… completely misses the following point: the data to do this exists, not because of you and I Daniel, but because of the fact that since man appeared on this planet his thirst for knowledge is what has driven him forward to the point where people like you and I can sit here and say … “if you format your data like this, and give everything a dereferncible uri – that’ll be really useful!”. I’m serious … Linked Data is not a radical technology change, nor is the Semantic Web, both represent a paradigm shift, a new understanding, a new way of doing things but the fact is that the technology has been around for ages, we are only now understanding the importance of being more open, of having common vocabularies to describe things, and the importance of linking concepts together in this web of data.

The absolute last thing we want to do is to start saying to scientists, not matter how obscure ther field of research is, or how relevant we consider that research to be (personally), that it’s somehow less important than what we, as a community, are doing … because it absolutely isn’t. Are you really sure you want to be asking people to believe that answers about the origin of the universe and our existence in it are less important than an “interesting browsing experience?”

One thought on “Is LinkedData really more important than the Large Hadron Collider?

  1. Hi Nadeem,

    Good to hear from you, and thanks for your comments 🙂

    That post was primarily to provide my thoughts on the LHC (as you can tell I don’t particularly like it much), it certainly wasn’t to say “hey scrap X because Y is better”.

    The other thing that didn’t really come through clearly on the post was that in order to get the data for the Linked Data Web we have to do experiments like this. Plus, in order to do Linked Data stuff we (as a Linked Data Community) need to work with the Scientists (who provide the data) which means we get stuff to link up and play with, and they get used to data which can be browsed *OR* queried.

    Anyways, thank you ever so much for your critique. It’s incredibly important. (My understandings and opinions of the world evolve, and I understand that they evolve, therefore, I am really appreciative when people give feedback).

    Thanks again.
    See you again soon.

    Daniel

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