Three questions put to Dr Anna-Lena Lorenz

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An interview about the Open Research Knowledge Graph – or ORKG for short – with Dr Anna-Lena Lorenz. She works in research and development at TIB, where she is responsible for community building for the ORKG. In this interview, she talks about what exactly her job entails.

Portrait of Dr Anna-Lena Lorenz
Dr Anna-Lena Lorenz // Photo: TIB/C. Bierwagen

With an estimated 2.6 million newly published scientific articles in the field of science and technology each year, it is virtually impossible for researchers to keep track of the latest developments. The dynamic Open Research Knowledge Graph is designed to help solve this problem. What exactly is the ORKG, and how does it help scholars cope with the flood of publications?

The problem is that the way we share scientific findings has barely changed over the centuries. We write articles about our findings – a form of communication by humans for humans that offers little opportunity for machine support.

We want to change this with the ORKG, which makes knowledge machine-readable. This way, researchers can get machine support, e.g. in an attempt to keep track of the state of the art on certain research issues or to specifically compare results or methods. This saves researchers valuable time, which they can devote to the lab, surveys or simulations instead.

Community building for the ORKG – that is one of your tasks. What does it mean in concrete terms: What does your typical working day look like, and what makes your work so special?

At first, the main concern was to develop executable software for the ORKG. We now have that in place, so the current objective is to make the ORKG known to our target audiences – researchers, libraries, publishers and conferences – and to obtain content.

To do this, I specifically reach out to research communities from all kinds of disciplines. As soon as a community shows interest, I get an impression of their needs and how they work. We then implement these findings in the ORKG. The aim of our system is to provide researchers with added value, which is why this continuous exchange is important.

The variety of my day-to-day work is what I always wanted it to be: It involves everything – from managing our ORKG social media channels to discussing data models. Generally speaking, my everyday work is very communicative. Hardly a day goes by without me giving a lecture or engaging in conversation, not only at TIB but also elsewhere. This combination of communication, science and data science is what makes my work so fascinating.

This year, for the third time, TIB is awarding ORKG Curation Grants to scientists to “fill” the ORKG in their field of research. Could you describe the idea behind this in more detail?

One of our greatest challenges at present is to incorporate content from different disciplines into the ORKG. Despite all the technological advances in artificial intelligence, this is still best done by human curation.

This is why we need researchers to enter the content relevant to their work into the ORKG. And to support this process, we offer financial incentives with our ORKG Curation Grants. Researchers receive €400 a month for six months to create machine-readable comparisons of scholarly publications. We advise and support the grantees in this process. Of course, these discussions provide us with valuable feedback on usability, aspects of which have already been implemented in the system. In the last two years, we received a lot of positive feedback from participants, and there were also a number of success stories.