There have been requests on our mailing list recently to consider the various options for supporting validation of BibJSON and for supporting namespacing. These two options require some further consideration.


Efforts so far around BibJSON have focussed on building a useful JSON representation of bibliographic metadata, with some typical key/value pairs that are common in or extended from bibtex. This started off simply, but we have seen increasing complexity to accommodate further functionality requests. There was some work on a JSON schema for validation against, but given the aim of being as flexible as possible, and with very few required keys, the function of validation of a BibJSON document would have very little effect.

Validating a document as properly formatted JSON is, of course, a good idea; but there are plenty ways to do this already – just try to parse it with any number of libraries for your programming language of choice.

But to reach the stage of actually supporting validation against a pre-defined schema, we must pre-define a schema – and that means becoming inflexible (or doing such little validation as for it to be essentially pointless).

An alternative to validation against a schema would be adoption of namespaces.


We do already have a namespace concept in BibJSON – it is just a key in the metadata, under which can be listed namespaces and a suitable prefix for them. However, this model is not widely known (because we made it up). To overcome this, we should adopt the JSON-LD method of using @context parameters. This way, it would be possible to specify the namespace in which your record keys are defined, and to share namespace information with other people / machines.

What is the point

Using namespaces, having schema, only become sensible when there is a concerted effort to share data with others. For internal use, they could be valuable for consistency, but the code we write internally adheres by definition to our own level of consistency anyway.

Therefore, it is not a function of BibJSON to perform validation – BibJSON is just JSON. Rather, it is the function of a community to make agreements and to conform to those agreements as required.

Where such a function must be supported, it should be done via mechanisms already available and maintained for that purpose – there is no point attempting to maintain our own; it is not our key strength or goal.


Change the BibJSON use of namespaces to conform to the method specified in JSON-LD, and that wherever consistency is required, agreement to share data via JSON and within a particular @context should be reached.

The fundamental basic keys in BibJSON – the default context – should remain as they are, and should not require contextualisation.

If contextualisation of the fundamental keys of BibJSON is required, then those keys should be contextualised into a schema by whomsoever has such a requirement.


  • drop the “namespace” key in BibJSON
  • continue using BibJSON as normal, but:
  • reference JSON-LD for use of @context and other more complex LD functions as required
  • wherever validation is required, perform it based on the use of namespaced keys (beyond scope of bibjson)


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One Response to JSON-LD / BibJSON

  1. Tod Robbins says:


    I think the way you’ve laid out the strengths of JSON-LD and the namespace key as a solution for BibJSON is pretty solid. I’m curious which use cases could best illustrate this in the documentation.

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