An #openscienceprize entry: Integrating server-side annotation into the ecosystem

Over the last few months, I've been playing with and thinking about how to use it to further my scientific work. This resulted in some brainstorming with Jon Udell and Maryann Martone about, well, lots of things. And now we're putting in an open science prize entry!

tl; dr? Check out a draft of our proposal to the open science prize competition, "Annotation as a service: helping build a global knowledge layer with annotation of the dark literature".

What is

If you're not familiar with, it's an awesome, game-changing system that lets you add (and view) annotations to virtually any Web page or PDF document. The key bit is that it's utterly permissionless - the service is completely client-side, so you can add and view annotations on any content to which you have access. For example, if you're reading this blog post in a compatible browser (try Firefox or Google Chrome), you should see this sentence highlighted; click on it and you should see an annotation window pop out with some text in it. lets me decorate papers (including closed access papers) manually with whatever I want.

More specifically, lets me connect any two resources with an "anchor" in one, pointing to another, with some text and tags. This can be done manually. It's done without permission by either resource - as long as the resource has an ID (URL or PDF ID), it works.

So what's the #openscienceprize entry about?

We want to expand this concept to the notion of automated annotation, where any source of textual analysis (including links to database, reviews, post-publication-date updates, etc.) can be used to create annotations for any given piece of literature, linking it to relevant resources, metacommentary, etc.

I don't know of anything like this currently and so it's not easy to describe how it's useful. The first use case, Wormbase, is one example - right now, Wormbase can't place links to their gene information on the lit, but with this they could do so quite easily. More generally, I see this as opening the floodgates for rampant creativity to be applied to marking up scientific papers.

We'd love your feedback on the idea, along with any brainstorming or critiques you might have. Please go check out the proposal at and let us know what you think!


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