Open Bibliographic Data Challenge

Open Knowledge Foundation

Update: one developer prize has been issued, but the challenge remains open to further submissions; please let us know if you are still working on an entry!

  • Hashtag: #openbiblio-challenge
  • What: Suggest ideas and build apps or develop datasets using open bibliographic data more »
  • Prizes: 2 x £50 prizes for ideas and 2 x £500 prizes for implemented apps
  • When: opens 17th Jan and ends 17th Feb 2011
  • FAQs: read the FAQs
  • Questions: Leave comments/questions below or email mark dot macgillivray at okfn dot org

What is the challenge?

What can you do with open access to data? What great ideas do you have for utilising open access to bibliographic catalogues? Or what example prototypes can you come up with in a month? We want to find out!

  • 2 x £50 prizes for great ideas using bibliographic data
  • 2 x £500 prizes for building prototype apps using open bibliographic data

How do I take part?

Ideas Challenge

  1. Sign up on the OKF ideas incubator
  2. Submit your own ideas
    • you must TAG your submission with the openbiblio-challenge tag
    • Your idea must reference one of the specified open datasets (see rules below for more details)
  3. [Optional] Vote and comment on ideas submitted by others!

The ideas and solutions that generate the most interest will be shortlisted at the end of the challenge period, and winners will be chosen and announced by the panel.

You can still participate by submitting an idea that describes how you think we could utilise these bibliographic datasets in a novel way (see technical details for more info about and links to datasets). Your idea could then generate further interest or inspire someone to create a prototype – a potential solution to your problem!

App and Dataset Challenge

Build a prototype app or create a new dataset that uses or builds on one of the specified challenge datasets (CUL, BL or IUCr – see below for details).

You should submit a description of your app or dataset to either as a response to an existing idea or as a new idea plus response.

Note that its fine (even encouraged) to develop an app that is a solution to an idea submitted by someone else as part of the challenge.

See what others have submitted:

Here’s a list of all ideas submitted so far.

Rules and restrictions

  • Any one individual or group can receive at most one prize. If you submit both a prize winning idea and a prototype solution to that idea, you will receive only the solution prize; the idea prize will cascade to the next best idea.
  • Ideas and solutions must make use of the BL, CUL or IUCr dataset, with or without using bibliographica. Information from other datasets and sources can be used if it is in addition to one of these, and if the other dataset is open.
  • All submitted prototypes must be open source and use open data (as defined by the open definition.
  • Ideas or prototypes can be submitted to with links to external information – for example you can make a diagram to support your idea and put it on the web elsewhere then link to it, or if you have other relevant links about your idea, you can include them too. for prototypes, links to repos or prototypes hosted elsewhere are excellent. just remember to include enough info on your submission to allow other people to get a good enough understanding to be able to comment and vote.
  • A description of an example use case should be provide with a prototype – we want to see how the proposed solution would benefit someone using the data. Even better – find someone in your organisation that can give a real use case for you to solve, and include them in your development!
  • The commenting and voting mechanisms should not be abused. we hope that by providing such mechanisms we can support a growing community; sabotage and strategic voting will ruin this prospect, so use them responsibly
  • The judging panel has final say on all submissions, without restriction. members of the judging panel will be allowed to submit ideas and prototypes but will not be allowed to claim prizes


You can find a list of (mostly) open bibliographic datasets at:

The ‘required’ datasets are:


Who’s organizing this challenge?

The challenge is organized by the Open Knowledge Foundation and its Working Group on Open Bibliographic Data

When did the challenge launch?

The challenge officially launches at the Visions of a (Semantic) Molecular Future event in Cambridge, UK on 17th January 2011.

When does the challenge end?

The close coincides with the end of the Dev8D event in London, UK on 17th February 2011.

However you can work on this challenge at any time, and any where, between the start and end events.

Why is this a good idea?

Sometimes data is not always as open as we would like, restricting our ability to share and collaborate; but one good way to increase the opportunities to work together is to demonstrate just how much we can do with data that is openly available to us, providing proofs of concept that inspire others.

The JISC openbib project recently announced releases from Cambridge University Library, IUCr and the British Library of large bibliographic datasets.

In addition, the BL dataset comprising the British National Bibliography has been uploaded into a triple store with search at We would like to get more people involved so that together we can develop new and better ways to use this data.

What do you mean by open data?

See the open definition

Can you tell me more about open bibliographic data?

See the JISC open bibliographic data guide and the bibliographic section of

15 Responses to Open Bibliographic Data Challenge

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  4. George Oates says:

    Just thought punters might be interested in this shameless plug towards playing with the Open Library API in this challenge. Might be interesting to compare, say, related subjects from Open Library with BL records… Or, try to find BL records that have recently been updated in OL, or…

    Hell – Maybe I should enter!

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  13. Christopher Warner says:

    The prize money isn’t enough.

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