Microsoft Releases Open Tools to Enhance Scientific Research Efforts Building on Science Commons Ontologies

REDMOND, Wash., and SAN JOSE, Calif. — March 11, 2009 — The nuggets of information necessary for science to progress are often hard to find, submerged deep within the Web, or within databases that can’t be easily accessed or integrated. As a result, many scientists today work in relative isolation, follow blind alleys and unnecessarily duplicate existing research.

Addressing this critical challenge for researchers, Microsoft Corp. and Creative Commons announced today, before an industry panel at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech 2009, http://en.oreilly.com/et2009), the release of the Ontology Add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2007 that will enable authors to easily add scientific hyperlinks as semantic annotations, drawn from ontologies, to their documents and research papers. Ontologies are shared vocabularies created and maintained by different academic domains to model their fields of study.

This Add-in will make it easier for scientists to link their documents to the Web in a meaningful way. Deployed on a wide scale, ontology-enabled scientific publishing will provide a Web boost to scientific discovery.

Science Commons, a division of Creative Commons, is incubating the adoption of semantic scientific publishing through creation of a robust database of ontologies (http://neurocommons.org) and development of supporting technical standards and code. Microsoft Research has built a technology bridge to enable the link between Microsoft Office Word 2007 and these ontologies.

“The Web is broken for scientific researchers — full of hyperlinks of scholarly articles, but it is nearly impossible for us to find what we need,” said John Wilbanks, vice president for Science at Creative Commons. “The semantic Web tool will help bridge the gap between basic research and meaningful discovery, unlocking the value of research so more people can benefit from the work scientists are doing.”

Source Code Openly Available

Microsoft is making the source code for both the Ontology Add-in for Office Word 2007 and the Creative Commons Add-in for Office Word 2007 tool available under the Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) on CodePlex, Microsoft’s Web site for hosting open source projects, at http://ucsdbiolit.codeplex.com and http://ccaddin2007.codeplex.com respectively.

By making the source code for the Ontology Add-in available under an open source license, Microsoft is allowing users to improve the Add-in or even to port it to other publishing systems, facilitating the growth of scientific semantic publishing, linking vast knowledge systems and furthering a wide range of work in biology, computer science, chemistry, history and other academic fields. As a result, when researchers run structured queries in the Web, it will be easier to find peer-related documents and mark up papers as science evolves.

“Microsoft External Research is sharing our technology and innovation with open source communities with a common goal to help drive research and education forward,” said Lee Dirks, director of Education and Scholarly Communication at Microsoft Research. “By making available a Technology Preview release of the Add-in, as well as its source code, we are facilitating further developments in the ontology field and increasing our engagement with developers, scholars, publishers and information repositories interested in improving the availability of semantically rich content on the Web, and enabling a consistent end-to-end experience — from authoring to publishing.”

New Tool to Help Researchers Share Knowledge

“Microsoft’s openness in working with the Science Commons has significant implications for the scientific research community because it will make it easy for authors to link their documents straight into the semantic Web of science — making that research, data and material easier to find and use,” said Philip E. Bourne, Ph.D., professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, who along with research scientist J. Lynn Fink, Ph.D., is the originator of the prototype implementation. “Given the ubiquity of Microsoft Office software, as more and more users leverage the tool, we hope to see a notable impact on our ability to accelerate scientific discovery.”

The Ontology Add-in for Word 2007 is enabled by Microsoft Office Word’s Open XML Formats underpinnings and its extensibility in the form of smart tags.

Continued Collaboration

Microsoft has a history of close collaboration with Creative Commons. This includes the June 2006 release of the Creative Commons Add-in for Office 2003 (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/jun06/06-20MSCreativeCommonsPR.mspx), a copyright licensing tool that enables the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular Microsoft Office applications, and the July 2008 release of a similar Add-in for Office 2007 (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/jul08/07-28SoftwareToolsPR.mspx?rss_fdn=Press%20Releases) as part of Microsoft’s Scholarly Communication life cycle of tools. Updates to both Add-ins are also being released today.

“This is another example of a Microsoft and Creative Commons collaboration that is enabling creators and users of intellectual property to share and build on ideas while also recognizing and respecting the value of intellectual property,” said Tom Rubin, chief counsel for Intellectual Property Strategy at Microsoft. “We’re encouraged that our work together — across the fields of science, technology and law — will present new opportunities for research.”

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 2001, that promotes the creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works — whether owned or in the public domain. Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists and educators that build upon the “all rights reserved” concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary “some rights reserved” approach. It is sustained by the generous support of various foundations including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Omidyar Network Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation as well as members of the public. For general information, visit http://creativecommons.org.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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