|From:||Greg Bloom <bloom@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>|
|Date:||Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:45:42 -0400|
I’m coordinating a new initiative to develop interoperability and open data within a particular field of 'human service informatics.' The field is often known as ‘Information and Referral,’ and is concerned with the aggregation and distribution of directory information for health, human, and social services (which services are available, who is eligible for them, and where/how to access them).
Currently, this field is still siloed, fragmented, nonstandardized, etc, which causes a lot of pain for everyone throughout the public and non-profit sectors. New web-based startups like https://www.1deg.org/ are offering great interfaces, but may potentially fragment the field even further.
We’ve got an unprecedented opportunity to fix this. A number of developments have recently emerged that could enable the development of ‘open’ platforms to freely circulate this information — among them, schema.org's schema for ‘civic services’ as proposed to the W3C. Given that this represents Google’s into this field, I believe it creates a political moment in which we can rally various players in this space around a new standard for ‘community resource directory data’ that would be interoperable between incumbents and newcomers, and the web.
In light of this (and other developments), I’ve convened a group of key institutional representatives and local stakeholders, and have offered up a proposal for developing a set of standards (and pilot sites that will test/evaluate these standards). My work is now being sponsored by Code for America, and we have funding for a pilot year to demonstrate some initial potential for success.
Our initiative is called Open Referral: http://openreferral.org
This document includes some more detail on our scope.
Among various challenges, one of the layers of our work is essentially ontological. We’re going to have to establish agreement on things like the differences between ‘services' and ‘programs’ (and/or ways to work around disagreement); and we’ve got a difficult taxonomy problem. I’m told by a couple of the subject matter experts in our network that, if we’re really going to develop a new standard successfully, we have to develop an ontology prior to (or at least along with) the technical artifacts. But I have to admit, whenever I say the word ‘ontology’ in discussions with stakeholders, I lose at least half of them. And frankly I find it daunting to parse the conversations on this list myself, although I have learned a bit from some of you and from some of the texts shared here.
So here’s what I’m looking for from your expertise
- Valuable, well-documented precedents for the role of ontology-development in data standards, from which we can learn by example. The more participatory (i.e. not just involving engineers, but actual users and stakeholders) the better.
- Advice in figuring out whether to attend the ontology conference coming up in Arlington. I think I can make it (at considerable sacrifice to my calendar) but I am highly unlikely to have enough time to really become versed in this subject by then. Will it be useful for someone who doesn’t consider themselves an ontologist, and is just trying to get a thing done?
- If there’s anyone to whom this sounds like an interesting project, we are certainly looking for expertise — anything from the 2 cents kind to the large exciting action/research project for which we can seek funding and field support etc etc.
So that’s my shpiel. Would love to discuss more on-thread or one-on-one, and if there’s some interest I’d even be happy to present on video chat — or, as I suggested, possibly even come to meet in person at the conference.
Thanks for reading,
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