by Peter Galli on March 11, 2009 09:01am


Microsoft and the Creative Commons have released an add-in for Microsoft Word 2007 that will enable authors to easily insert scientific hyperlinks or ontologies as semantic annotations to their documents and research papers.

Science Commons, a division of Creative Commons, has been championing the creation and use of ontologies - essentially a classification system to organize concepts, not unlike the high-tech Dewey Decimal System.

For its part, Microsoft has developed an add-in that enables the consumption of these ontologies in Word 2007 - and is making the source code available to enable new functionality in Word 2007 - allowing for semantic search capabilities of the documents.

Microsoft is also making the source code available for the Creative Commons Add-in for Word 2007, free of charge, to open source communities on CodePlex through the OSI-approved Microsoft Public License.

Making the source code for the copyright licensing tool available to open source communities provides developers with the opportunity to tailor it for specific industries using domain-specific language.

For example, a developer could choose to modify the tool with language relevant for an author creating a work in the field of genetic research, enabling an author to easily add a copyright license relevant specifically to that subject matter.

The add-in, which was developed in collaboration with the University of California San Diego and Science Commons, serves as a solution accelerator for those working in the ontology field, says Microsoft Program Manager Pablo Fernicola.

"Looking at the developer stack from higher to lower levels of abstraction, the add-in will be useful in three key areas: the development of new ontologies, investigation of new author interaction paradigms, and integration into publishing and semantic workflows," he says.

For those developing new ontologies, the add-in provides a very easy way to test those ontologies with their target audience.

"In many scientific disciplines, Microsoft Word is a very popular tool for authoring papers and articles, and as such authors are already familiar with its usage and features.  The add-in is able to seamlessly build on this familiarity to expose new functionality, while additional ontologies can be downloaded through a REST interface," he said.

You can read more about all this on Pablo's blog.

Tom Rubin, the chief counsel for IP Strategy at Microsoft, also notes that the partnership between Microsoft and the Creative Commons enables creators and users of intellectual property to share and build on ideas while also recognizing and respecting the legitimacy and value of IP.

"We're encouraged that our work together - across the fields of science, technology and law - will present new opportunities for research," he said.

By making the source code for the semantically-enabled 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.

As such people will, for example, have the opportunity to expand on scientific hyperlinks in research papers. So, when researchers run structured queries in the Web, it will be easier for them to find peer-related documents, and to mark up papers as science evolves.

To John Wilbanks, the vice president for Science at Creative Commons and Executive Director of Science Commons, the Web is broken for scientific researchers: full of hyperlinks of scholarly articles but no way for them to find what they need.

"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," he said.

This is also just another deliverable in the long history of close collaboration between Microsoft and the Creative Commons, including the June 2006 joint release of 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 Creative Commons Add-in for Office 2007 as part of its Scholarly Communication lifecycle of tools.